Defend homes or go, residents told

HARRIETVILLE residents not prepared to defend their homes were last night asked to leave the township as fire conditions worsened.

Authorities were predicting Mount Hotham could also come under attack from the blaze, which had already burnt out 1700 hectares at Mount Feathertop.

“It looks probable. There’s a high risk,” deputy incident controller Geoff Rowe said yesterday.

However, Mr Rowe said he was confident the bushfire, which was moving slowly yesterday, could be prevented from destroying homes.

Mount Hotham is now devoid of tourists, but three strike teams and crews from the resort management board and lift company were last night stationed there, ready for a fire fight.

Mr Rowe said crews at Harrietville had cleared control lines on the town’s edge.

He said these control lines had been used with success during previous fires and he was confident they would work again.

Mr Rowe said throughout Wednesday night the fire had barely moved in the colder mountain air.

But last night was expected to be a different story, with winds forecast to rise throughout the night up to 60 to 80km/h by 7am today.

Community meetings were well attended at Bright and Mount Beauty yesterday, although authorities said neither of the towns was likely to be at immediate risk from the fire front.

Concerns were raised over warnings and communication.

Mount Beauty retiree Jillian Willcox said she was frustrated with continual warnings that fires would affect a town within 24 hours.

Mr Rowe said the warnings were like weather forecasts.

“All you do is offer your best estimate when the fire may affect the town and it will be a worst-case scenario,” he said.

“In Harrietville for example if you have a burning log roll down the hill the fire may happen within a hour. It’s important we put out a warning about what the potential of the fire is.”

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