Race on to contain fire before heat returns

FIREFIGHTERS are scrambling to finish containment lines along huge stretches of the Kentbruck bushfire front, which threatens to spread in tomorrow’s hot weather. 

More than 400 firefighters from the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and the Country Fire Authority (CFA) are burning off vegetation near the blaze, with others still locked in a stalemate against the flames and smouldering earth, much of it in rough terrain inaccessible to trucks and tankers. 

Revised figures released yesterday show the fire has burnt less than previously thought, with 6651 hectares of forest scorched since Friday. 

Speaking to The Standard, DSE deputy incident controller Andy Cusack said today’s efforts would be critical in containing the fire. 

“We’re putting a lot of effort in the next day into getting containment lines,” Mr Cusack said. 

“We need to be confident that those lines will hold. We are going really hard at the moment.” 

He foreshadowed heavy smoke from burn-offs and reduced visibility, warning motorists to drive carefully on the roads. 

“There’s going to be a fair bit of smoke for some time.” 

Mr Cusack said the main area of concern was still the fire’s eastern flank facing the Drik Drik community, south of Dartmoor. 

He warned north-westerly winds over the coming 24 hours could push the slow-moving fire towards Greenwald and Lyons. 

“Over the next day we’re going to have winds that will go right around the compass,” he said. 

Graders and machinery dug up nature strips beside the Princes Highway this week. 

Other lines have also been dug up across plantations bordering the Lower Glenelg National Park.

“By Friday we need to be in the best possible position so we can hold it,” Mr Cusack said. 

“We’ve probably got a 50-kilometre perimeter that we’ve got to control and burn out.” 

Mr Cusack also knocked back claims that DSE water bombers had run out of aviation fuel during suppression efforts. 

“There is no basis for that — aircraft may have stopped for other operational purposes ... we have not run out of fuel,” he said. 

As of late yesterday the Bureau of Meteorology forecast was for light north-westerly winds and a maximum temperature of 28 degrees for Heywood today. 

Tomorrow, morning  thunderstorms and light north-westerly winds of 15-25km/h and a maximum of 30 degrees are predicted. 

A community meeting will take place at the Dartmoor Community Hall today at 11am, with CFA and DSE representatives present. 

A community information point has also been established at the Dartmoor Rural Transaction Centre on Greenham Street for today and tomorrow, operating between 11am and 1pm with DSE staff on site to provide updates.

For more information contact the Victorian Bushfire Information Line (VBIL) on freecall 1800 240 667 or visit www.cfa.vic.gov.au.

Callers who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a communication impairment may contact VBIL via the National Relay Service on 1800 555 677.

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