Local roads are closed in the fire-impacted area while safety assessments take place.
The local communities of Poolaijelo and Langkoop in the Wimmera have been ravaged by a large bushfire over the New Year's weekend.
The fire started in South Australia, near the border of Victoria as a result of a car accident around 1.30pm on Friday 31 December.
Weather conditions caused the fire to spread in an easterly direction into Victoria, crossing Fergusons Rd, near Ryans Rd and into the Meereek State Forest, with more than 7330 hectares of grassland and scrub burnt.
Fire crews from CFA, Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMV) and South Australia Country Fire Service (CFS) have battled the fire since it started, supported by aircraft and heavy machinery, and continue to work on building containment lines to stop further spread of the fire.
“Fortunately, we have seen no losses of homes at this stage, however, there has sadly been livestock and wildlife losses throughout the area”, Incident Controller Mark Gunning said.
Agriculture Victoria Staff are currently working with property owners supporting them in the management of their stock losses. Fire-affected farmers with animal welfare concerns or livestock needing to be assessed can call Agriculture Victoria District Veterinary Officer Amy Sluggett on 0457 837 840.
Wildlife losses have also been reported with some old native forest affected, which is famous for its red tail cockatoos.
For injured wildlife, members of the public are urged to take care if attempting to help injured or distressed animals outside of the fire area. Improper rescue techniques by untrained or inexperienced persons can cause further distress or injury to the animal and put the rescuer at risk. Wildlife Officers have been deployed into the area to assess wildlife and community members can call 136 186 if they encounter an injured native animal.
Some local road have also been closed as a result of the fire, with Casterton-Apsley Road between Dergholm-Edenhope Road and Fergusons Road, west of Powers Creek, closed due to many large roadside gum trees damaged by fire or continuing to burn.
“Trees affected by fire provide a significant risk to public safety due to falling branches and therefore we need to have the roads closed until crews assess and remove those trees that are at risk”, Mr Gunning said.
“With the support of Victoria Police overseeing Traffic Management Points, we are able to have crews working hard to assess these hazardous trees to re-open roads as soon as possible and we recommend that community members stay patient and keep up to date about the roads via the VicTraffic website or calling 13 11 70."
The fire has also affected community infrastructure, with Powercor crews working to re-establish power to about 70 properties in the area. CFA crews are ensuring that a gas pipeline running underground through the area is not affected by fires burning in the vicinity of the line.
Residents should also be aware that water tanks could become contaminated due to debris and ash from the fire been flushed into your tank. Prior to any rain, residents should consider disconnecting their tanks from roof lines and allow the first rain to flush out debris from the roof onto the ground and not into the tank.
Local timber plantations have also seen losses due to the fire.
“Timber plantation losses to date are estimated to be approximately 800 hectares, valued in excess of $10 million. Forest Industry Brigades currently have 16 appliances, a helitak and 40 firefighters at the fire, working alongside FFMV and CFA firefighters," said Anthony Walsh, Manager of Green Triangle Fire Alliance.
Incident Controller Mark Gunning outlined that weather conditions over the next few days will see fire crews re-enforcing established containment lines.
“The fire is still very active in the area, and we ask the community to stay informed via the VicEmergency app which will provide you with up-to-date information about the fire and support your decision-making in respect to you and your family's actions,” he said.
- CFA volunteers reload one of the aircraft deployed to fight the Langkoop fire.