PUBLIC pressure has helped spark a series of planned Grampians burns aiming to reduce the threat of a horror bushfire.
A joint Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) fuel reduction burn outside Dunkeld yesterday covered 88 hectares of bushland around Mount Abrupt. The site has not been burnt since 1981 and was considered a priority due to its position near assets including Grampians Retreat, a popular site for school camps.
About 40 local CFA volunteers joined Parks Victoria and DSE staff to manage the fire, which has been planned since last August.
CFA fuel management facilitator for the south-west, Anthony Watt, said 56 hectares of the land was privately owned by Dunkeld Pastoral, with the remainder national park.
Public concern since Black Saturday had prompted closer assessment of thick scrub around small communities, he said.
"Because of the mountain on the north side of the town, if it was to be hit by lightning or an arsonist started a fire, embers would fly out into the township.
"The Grampians Retreat has about 50 schoolchildren there every week of the school year and most of those are from the city, so it's to make them feel safe as well."
Mr Watt said Dunkeld residents had long pushed for greater fuel reduction, particularly after the town was listed among Victoria's 52 most fire-prone areas.
"The whole community's been alerted to the fact that (crews are) burning off," he said.
"They've been arguing for this for years and years and years, and now it's finally come to fruition."
Planned burns across the Grampians are expected to cover 4700 hectares this week.
The CFA also intends to complete fuel management work around Nelson, Peterborough and Bolwarra before the next fire season.