Grampians fire contained, expected to smoulder for weeks

THE fire that has been raging for almost two weeks in the Grampians is effectively under control, with more than 300 firefighters managing to get the blaze within containment lines over the weekend.

Horsham incident control centre public information officer Chris Carey said ground crews contained the Victoria Valley complex fire on Saturday night, but the blaze would continue to smoulder away within the contained area for several weeks.

“There’s some unburnt country between the containment lines and the fire, so there’s still a bit of burning there,” Mr Carey said.

Fire crews will monitor the perimeter for the next few weeks with an eye on the weather, he said.

“If we get some hot days with some strong winds it will have to be watched very closely.

“It will be on fire (within the containment lines) until we get some rains. The weather’s looking good for the next week or so.”

There are still 307 firefighters working in the Victoria Valley, including specialist firefighters who were dropped into remote areas by helicopter to help fight the blaze.

Known as hover exit firefighters, they are used in areas inaccessible to normal fire vehicles and where vegetation or terrain prevents a helicopter from completing a full skid landing.

Hover exiting is a specialist technique used by highly trained Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) staff for transferring firefighters and equipment from a hovering helicopter safely to the ground.

DSE air operations manager Mark Corr said once on the ground, a hover exit crew could take direct action on the fire, call in firebombing aircraft or may even prepare a helipad nearby to enable additional DSE firefighters and equipment to be brought in.

“The hover exit crew has been doing some excellent work in the Cassidy Gap area over the last few days reinforcing containment lines and conducting patrols,” he said.

“These are fit and really well trained people. Their skill and hard work is making a big difference to the fire effort.”

The fire was started by two or three lightning strikes two weeks ago, with those blazes merging into one fire. 

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