Day of fire danger calls up our heroes in the heats

CAMPERS were evacuated late yesterday as a large fire swept through pine plantations in the Kentbruck-Mount Richmond district west of Portland.

Last night it had burnt more than 200 hectares and authorities had allocated substantial resources to control it.

More than 60 CFA crews and dozens of firefighters from the Department of Sustainability and Environment and plantation companies, plus four bulldozers, two fixed-wing aircraft and two helicopters are involved in the fight.

Further support crews and aircraft will be deployed today.

Investigators were travelling to the area to determine a cause.

It is the only fire still running in the south-west region, which faced extreme conditions with temperatures hitting 43 degrees, fanned by northerly gusts of more than 60 kilometres an hour ahead of a south-westerly change.

Senior CFA officers praised the dedication of firefighters, some of whom  camped in hot tin fire station sheds on heightened alert.

New response systems triggered by the Black Saturday inquiry are also credited with the quick responses which averted possible infernos.

Ground crews and aircraft pounced on five outbreaks in the Warrnambool district, three of which are being investigated.

“It’s been quite clear we’ve been able to pull up these fires quite quickly today,” Warrnambool CFA incident centre controller Henry Barton said.

“A lot of volunteers wait at their stations in stinking heat in tin sheds.

“Several will make themselves available for strike teams to send to the Kentbruck fire. 

“Our professionals and volunteers put a lot of work into preparedness and action.”

Regional officer Steve Giddens, of Hamilton,  said Black Saturday triggered better responses.

“We got a lot smarter and can jump on fires quickly, with more resources,” he said.

Warrnambool district outbreaks started about 1.15pm yesterday on the Bushfield - Tower Hill Road, with about three hectares and 40 metres of fencing burnt. Eight fire trucks and crews had the blaze controlled in a little more than an hour.

Then, as they were mopping up, several of the crews headed west to Warrong, where a grass fire ignited pine trees and endangered a farm house on Gladmans Road.

Eight trucks, a helicopter and two fixed-wing planes were used to control the flames, saving the house and a nearby line of shelter trees about a kilometre long.

Efforts were hampered by falling tree branches.

Crews remained overnight and an excavator was used to fell dangerous trees.

Less than two hours after the Warrong outbreak, crews in the Nirranda area raced to a grass fire on Couchs Road.

Mr Barton said firefighters using five trucks contained it to about quarter of a hectare.

About an hour later Koroit district crews were in action again on Scotts Road, Kirkstall, where an earlier burn-off had flared up. They were still mopping up last night.

Shortly before 8pm crews were in action again to douse a burning pile of rubbish near a house at Woolsthorpe.

Dangerous fire conditions are set to continue next week.

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