Burn-off blamed for Narrawong's close call

A LARGE-SCALE bushfire at Narrawong is likely to have been caused by a planned burn-off that reignited.

DEPI firefighter Mike Philip, from the Otway Region group, blacks out hotspots on the edge of the Mt Clay State Forest yesterday.

DEPI firefighter Mike Philip, from the Otway Region group, blacks out hotspots on the edge of the Mt Clay State Forest yesterday.

More than 1600 hectares of land in the Mount Clay district between Heywood and Narrawong have been consumed by fire over the past 48 hours, with smoke continuing to waft across the region.

Country Fire Authority (CFA) officials confirmed yesterday that only 50 to 100 hectares (120 to 250 acres) burnt were private property, with the vast majority of charred land within the Mount Clay State Forest.

By 6pm yesterday crews had nearly 80 per cent of the blaze under control. 

DEPI incident controller Michael Harper said firefighters hoped to have the entire fire contained overnight. 

“We’ve had some cooler weather,” he said. 

About 150 firefighters backed by two waterbomber helicopters battled the flames through out the day.

The fire is believed to have ignited south of Heywood near Golf Course Road before heading west and later south towards the Narrawong township.

Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) land-fire regional manager Andrew Morrow confirmed the fire started in an area where a planned burn was started last week. The burn was completed over the weekend and was monitored by firefighters prior to the bushfire on Tuesday afternoon.   

“It’s assumed a strong northerly wind reignited the burn (on Tuesday), but we won’t be able to confirm this until we review the incident and can safely look at what happened,” Mr Morrow said.

“Firefighters worked hard to contain the fire within the state forest boundary and to stop it spreading into neighbouring farmland.” 

Firefighters managed to get the large blaze under control by daybreak yesterday. Narrawong residents were told at a morning meeting that the worst was over.

Volunteer and state government firefighters spent most of the day inside the state forest assessing the damage and marking trees considered at risk of collapse.

CFA Narrawong brigade member Stuart Jasper said the town’s residents were “sensational” in responding swiftly to the fire threat.

He said firefighters were most concerned between 10pm Tuesday and 3am yesterday as northerly winds gained strength.

“There were burning gum leaves that were floating across into town — it came pretty close to Narrawong,” Mr Jasper said.

“The wind really picked up and we thought it would keep heading south to the highway. Having said that, everyone remained calm and when we asked people to leave and get out of the way, we didn’t have one complaint.”

The flames came within metres of the back fences of some houses and less than a kilometre from Narrawong cemetery.


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