Incident controller says it will be an enormous relief for people around the Cobrico peat fire

Safe for families to go home

FAMILIES within a one kilometre radius of the Cobrico peat fire can finally return to their homes.

After almost three weeks, incident controller Mark Gunning said people had been notified that it was finally safe to go home.

GETTING THERE: A photo from a drone shows the extent of the Cobrico peat fire, a 4km pipeline has helped firefighters control the fire and has meant air quality in the area has improved signicantly. Picture: Andrew Jenkins

GETTING THERE: A photo from a drone shows the extent of the Cobrico peat fire, a 4km pipeline has helped firefighters control the fire and has meant air quality in the area has improved signicantly. Picture: Andrew Jenkins

He said in the coming days the elderly would be moved back into aged care services and children would be able to go back to school in Cobden when school returns on Monday. Mr Gunning said the initial success of the 4km long pipe line had a direct correlation with improved air quality around the peat fire.

He said there was a lot of emotion felt when people were told they could go home and it would hopefully help improve their mental well-being. “A lot of these kids have gone through horrible trauma on the night of the fires,” he said. “To be able to be back at school with their friends and teachers will be so important for their well-being.”

Pipeline brings relief to peat fire

THE pipeline pumping enormous amounts of water into Cobrico’s peat swamp has had a huge impact on the capabilities of firefighters.

Incident controller Mark Gunning said the water had been flowing for a couple of days and had made a significant difference.

He said the pipeline had helped to reduce the amount of smoke in the area which meant the air quality had improved significantly.

Mr Gunning said about 4.3kms of pipeline had been laid from a reservoir at Ewen Hill down to the Cobrico swamp. “Pictures of that pipeline are showing that firefighters have plenty of water to bring the fires under control which is vastly improving air quality for local residents,” he said.

He said it was hoped the fire would be out within weeks. Mr Gunning said at Lake Elingamite peat fire there had been access Fonterra pondage and meant direct pipelines to the peat fire.

“We’re also lifting some of that water with aircraft to fire bomb around the peat fires to put the fires out and reduce the smoke,” he said.

“Hopefully these strategies and the partnerships we’ve formed with Wannon Water and local authorities will make people’s lives better in the coming days.”

Wannon Water treatment scientist Glenn Jeffrey said Wannon Water had fabricated a connection point to supply water to the Cobrico peat fires.“The water is being pumped from the North Otway pipeline to the fire ground,” he said. “There’s a couple of catch dams that have been put in place to hold the water which can then be split between irrigators, pumped through pipes to irrigators and also into channels to act as fire break around the peat itself.

“At the moment we’ve got four mega litres of water coming down the pipeline to the fire ground which is 50 litres a second or the equivalent of four Olympic sized swimming pools per day.

“Up to this point we’ve only had the helicopters and water being trucked in on the back of semi trailers so this will give us a lot more water to use to put the fires out.”