Grampians fire safety warning for sightseers

WITH scorching conditions on the way across the south-west this week, curious motorists are putting their lives at risk by driving into the Grampians fire ground.

Tourists and locals have been ignoring road closure signs and driving into the area, diverting firefighting resources away from their crucial work.

Horsham incident controller Russell Manning, from the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, yesterday pleaded with sightseers to stay away and let firefighters do their job.

“A lot of hazardous trees are still burning and continue to fall,” he said.

Mr Manning told The Standard it was incredibly dangerous for people without safety equipment to enter the fire ground.

He said part of the national park had been re opened to visitors but people needed to respect that some areas and roads remained closed.

“Firefighters are still doing work on hazardous trees,” he said.

“This week will be a really difficult week for firefighters. It’s disappointing when we’re sending firefighters to move people on and they’re not doing the work they’re meant to be doing.”

Temperatures in Halls Gap are expected to be in the high 30s for the majority of the week, reaching 40 degrees by Friday and Saturday.

Mr Manning said from today onwards there would be more resources deployed on the Grampians North fire, including more firefighters available at night time.

He said there was the potential for lightning in the middle of the week and tomorrow was expected to be a severe fire danger day.

Mr Manning said conditions could prove difficult for firefighters with strong north-westerly winds in the morning before a south-westerly wind change in the afternoon which could impact on the eastern flank.

So far 55,100 hectares have been burnt and dozens of buildings destroyed in the blaze which has a perimeter of 257 kilometres.

During the weekend crews had been concentrating on blacking out the perimeter of the fire, he said.

Yesterday there were 75 firefighters working on the fire line and about 30 people supporting the firefighters and working in logistics.

Mr Manning praised the efforts of Koroit and Warrnambool firefighters who had worked on the fire.

Warrnambool is expected to reach 39 degrees tomorrow with temperatures cooling during the week rising again to 36 degrees on Saturday.

Last week the CFA reported that 90 structures had been impacted by the blaze, but they were still working through the detail to distinguish between houses, sheds and other properties.

For information on road closures visit www.vicroads.vic.gov.au 

cquirk@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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