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Summer fire wrap-up
Firefighters fought almost 4400 bush and grass fires during the most active fire season Victoria has faced in four years, Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said.
Tragically, a community member and four firefighters lost their lives, and 46 houses were destroyed during the 2012/13 bushfire season.
More than 190,000 hectares of public and private land was burnt between December and March, with livestock losses of around approximately 2400, as well as 1315 kilometres of fencing.
Mr Lapsley said 24 of the fires fought by Department of Sustainability and Environment, CFA and Metropolitan Fire Brigade firefighters were significant, including at Chepstowe, Aberfeldy, Harrietville, Donnybrook, Dereel and in the Grampians.
“While it was predicted to be an “average” fire season, above average temperatures and dry fuel loads increased the potential for fire activity across Victoria in January and February, and resulted in fires that were intense and fast moving, with fires running through the night,” he said.
“Volunteer and career firefighters have done an exceptional job controlling a large number of fires across Victoria quickly, with ground crews well supported by the extensive use of aircraft.”
For weeks, large fires in and around Harrietville, Aberfeldy and the Grampians tested not only the fire services, but the rural communities they were threatening.
Firefighters from New Zealand and New South Wales provided much needed support to Victorian crews fighting the deep seated forest fires in these areas. Victoria also supported Tasmania and NSW in their firefighting efforts.
Mr Lapsley said a fire at Donnybrook placed significant pressure on the peri-urban growth areas north of Epping and showed the fire threat was not limited to regional and rural Victoria.
The issuing of timely and relevant warnings and information was also a key focus of this fire season, and incident controllers issued 1745 Advice messages, 343 Watch and Act Warnings and 110 Emergency Warnings for fires across the state in the three months from December. Telephone alerting (Emergency Alert) was used 61 times.
Mr Lapsley said fire restrictions were being lifted across Victoria, but the threat of fire remained in some communities given the ongoing dry conditions, particularly in the Wimmera and Barwon South West regions.
“As the fire season comes to an end, it’s important to recognise the work of Victoria’s volunteer and career firefighters who have worked together with our emergency services partners including VICSES, local councils, Parks Victoria, Melbourne Water and many other agencies during a prolonged summer period,” he said.
“Victorian communities should also be recognised for their part in responding to the fire threat and in helping to rebuild those communities affected by fire.”
Statistics for grass and bushfires - Victorian fire season 2012-13 (December-March)
Total grass and bushfires fought by CFA, DSE and MFB = 4355
Breakdown by regions
Barwon South West 453
Loddon Mallee 643
Northern and Western Metro 474
Eastern Metro 309
Southern Metro 467