Click or flick across the above image for photos from the fires (iPhone app users can tap the 'Photos' tab).
HIKERS and campers were evacuated and the Great Alpine Road was closed at Harrietville as an out-of-control bushfire burned across Mount Feathertop last night.
The fire, believed to have been caused by lighting strikes on Monday night, intensified yesterday afternoon, forcing the closure of national parks and state forests between Harrietville, Hotham Heights and Falls Creek.
About 850 hectares of dense, steep bushland has been burnt.
· Falls Creek State Forest
· Hotham Heights State Forest
· Bogong State Forest
· Tawonga South State Forest
· Smoko State Forest
· Freeburgh State Forest
· Germantown State Forest
· Harrietville State Forest
· Bright State Forest
· Wandiligong State Forest
· The Alpine National Park is closed east of Harrietville, west of the Kiewa River West Branch, and to the north west of Mount Feathertop
· Mount Feathertop and its approaches are closed
· In addition, the southern part of the Alpine National Park (Wonangatta – Moroka) section remains closed due to the Aberfeldy fire.
Helicopters were used to evacuate 36 players from the Gippsland Power football team who had been hiking on the mountain’s Razorback Trail.
Fire authorities last night warned the fire, which began four kilometres north east of Harrietville, would continue to burn in a south-easterly direction and likely threaten Davenport Village, Falls Creek, Hotham Heights, Harrietville and Smoko within 24 hours.
Tankers and firefighters patrolled towns and villages overnight, with community meetings planned at Falls Creek and Mount Hotham today.
Residents and tourists were yesterday shocked as the wind intensified and the fire spread.
Two water-bombing helicopters led the fight against it.
Freeburgh resident Ron Kool was critical of the response by fire crews.
“I knew if they hadn’t got on top of it first thing this morning with the wind that we’re having, it would explode,” he said.
Mr Kool said the helicopters had arrived in the area about 11am.
“They knew where it was, knew what the weather was going to be like today, why weren’t they here straight away?
“If the wind picks up tomorrow, I’ll be grabbing my insurance policy, my dog and my missus.”
A Harrietville resident, who did not want to be named, said he had driven to Mount Hotham for work early yesterday because the fire appeared under control.
By the afternoon, he left work.
“Why weren’t the helicopters here at daylight if there was a risk of it flaring up?” he said.
“I’m disappointed they weren’t on to this in the morning.”
DSE incident controller Tony Lovick said high wind had blown embers over the containment line.
“The fire is in steep, thickly forested country that has no vehicle access and was beyond the capacity of crews and aircraft,” he said.
“Our key focus is to contain this fire and ensure people and communities are protected.”
WHAT TO DO
- Follow your bushfire survival plan.
- If you have a survival plan, well prepared and actively defended homes can offer safety.
- If you are not prepared or you plan to leave, leave now if it is safe to do so, before conditions become too dangerous.
- Turn on your vehicle headlights and drive slowly; smoke will make it difficult to see.
- Consider shelter options close by. This may include a private bunker (that meets current regulations).
- Last resort options include a Neighbourhood Safer Place, a stationary car in a cleared area, a ploughed paddock or reserve or body of water like a swimming pool or dam.
- If you cannot leave the area take shelter when the fire arrives - protect yourself from the fire’s heat.
- If you are away from home; do not return.
- If time permits, check your neighbours to see if they are monitoring conditions.
- If you are experiencing any symptoms that may be due to smoke exposure, the Department of Health advises people to seek medical advice or call Nurse on Call on 1300 606 024.