All well with the big smoke

RESIDENTS should be alert but not too alarmed if they see smoke in the North East in the next week.

It will likely be from the fires of the Department of Environment and Primary Industries’ planned burn of more than 53,000 hectares in the Hume region to reduce bushfire risk.

About 20,300 hectares in the Upper Murray, 14,400 in Ovens, and 18,100 in Goulburn and Murrindindi is in the department’s sights.

That’s less than the record 71,000 hectares burned in Hume last year, but the department’s burn manager Paul O’Connor said it was confident of delivering “another successful program”, weather and other conditions permitting.

“Every burn we do now means we are better prepared for future fire seasons,” he said.

“Reducing fuel loads on public land in remote areas and close to properties and towns helps slow the spread and intensity of bushfires, making them easier to control.”

There will be burns in state forests, national parks and reserves.

Mr O’Connor said crews would start with large-scale, higher-elevation burns in the Upper Murray, Goulburn and Ovens districts, and work towards larger communities and key infrastructure.

Although firefighters have had a long summer fighting fires and helping out in areas such as Gippsland and Loddon Mallee, Mr O’Connor said cooler temperatures meant now was the time to start the program.

“Weather conditions dictate when we can burn and plans can change at short notice,” he said.

“When we get a window of opportunity, we make sure we are ready to go.

“The four districts are monitoring fuel moisture so we know when it is safe to conduct the burns.

“In some areas, we are waiting for another 25 to 50 millimetres of rain.”

Some roads and parks could also be closed during the burns. The target burn for the state this year is 260,000 hectares.

For more information on where burns are scheduled, go to www.depi.vic.gov.au/burnsmap or phone the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667.

If people experience any symptoms that may be due to smoke exposure, they should seek medical advice or phone Nurse-on-Call on 1300 606 024.

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