Northern Grampians blaze claims a life, threatens Halls Gap

A WOMAN died in the massive Grampians fire that forced the evacuation of thousands of people from the northern section of the popular tourist area on Friday.

The 41,000-hectare fire was on Friday night a few kilometres to the north of the Grampians’ main tourist centre of Halls Gap.

The north-west horizon near the town was glowing bright orange from the huge blaze, with embers, ash and smoke blowing in.

A large-scale operation involving about 621 firefighters, 88 fire units and aerial bombers was struggling to keep the inferno out of the town.

The CFA said the fire extended from Roses Gap down the western side of the Mount Zero Road.

The fire victim, a woman, was found in a house in Roses Gap. 

Her identity was not released by police, who described her death as fire-related.

Most northern Grampians residents fled the area on Friday afternoon after the CFA urged people to evacuate Halls Gap, Pomonal, Bellfield, Lake Fyans and Lake Lonsdale, Roses Gap, Dadswells Bridge, Heatherlie and Ledcourt areas and seek shelter at the relief centre at the Stawell Leisure Centre.

Tourists were urged to stay away, with the fire delivering another blow to the Grampians tourism industry that has reeled from other fires, along with floods and landslides, in recent years.

The fire was the conglomeration of a number of smaller fires started by lightning in the Grampians National Park on Wednesday, with strong winds pushing the merged blaze west towards Halls Gap. Hundreds of people had registered on Friday at an evacuation centre at the Stawell Leisure Centre to let authorities know they were safe but many opted to stay elsewhere.

Among the few who chose to remain in Halls Gap was Stephen Odgers, of the Kookaburra Lodge, who was busy implementing fire safeguards.

He said there were no fire trucks in sight.

The CFA warnings and advice website last night declared an emergency warning for Grampians Junction, Halls Gap.

The fires in the northern Grampians have claimed a life. PIC: CFA.

The fires in the northern Grampians have claimed a life. PIC: CFA.

It said the fire was travelling in a south-westerly direction towards Halls Gap.

Mr Barton said two standby district five strike teams, comprising about 50 firefighters, were deployed from Dunkeld on Friday to help fight the northern Grampians fire.

One strike team had gone to Halls Gap and the other to Fyans Creek.

They joined the four district five strike teams that had been fighting the fire since earlier in the week.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the northern  Grampians fire was so intense that it had “created its own weather”, triggering lightning and spot fires around Halls Gap.

He said a small number of Halls Gap residents had decided to stay and protect their properties, taking on “intense and erratic fires”.

Meanwhile, a small fire near Dartmoor was contained on Friday afternoon.

Heywood Incident Control Centre chief Bill Speirs said the fire at Lyons was contained to less than a hectare.


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