FIRE restrictions are now in place across South Gippsland Shire and will remain in place until May 1.
“No burning off can be done unless a permit to burn has been issued from the Municipal Fire Prevention Officer of the South Gippsland Shire,” warned the captain of Foster Fire Brigade, David Jones. “And on days of Total Fire Ban, no fires are to be lit. There will definitely be a ‘no tolerance’ approach from the CFA to a person or persons who do not adhere to the rules. They could easily find themselves up in front of a magistrate.”
The fire restrictions only came into force on Monday, but the fire danger has been high for some time. In last week’s extreme heat, when temperatures across the state soared to above 40 degrees a Total Fire Ban was declared in most areas, including South Gippsland. This area has been spared major fires (so far), although the Foster Fire Brigade alone has already attended nine call-outs in the local area since the start of 2014 and other brigades have been busy, too.
The most serious incident locally was a hay fire at a property on the Foster-Fish Creek Road at Fish Creek late last Wednesday night. A hay shed and 3000 small square bales were destroyed in the blaze. CFA crews from Fish Creek, Foster, Yanakie and Meeniyan were called to the property at about 10.45pm. The shed was within 40 metres of a house and close to other sheds, but fortunately the fire fighters were able to contain the fire and stop it spreading. They worked hard through the night to put out the fire completely before the sun rose and with it the heat of the day. In their bid to ensure it was safe, some fire fighters were at the scene for up to twelve hours.
Foster and Fish Creek brigades, including two vehicles and a dozen fire fighters, were called out last Thursday, too. A stand of trees on O’Gradys Ridge Road, Foster, which had been burnt several days before when the weather was milder, reignited in Thursday’s hot weather and northerly wind. The fire was quickly brought under control by the CFA crews.
With last week’s searing heat creating perfect fire conditions, fire fighters have been in big demand across the state and locals have played their part in the fire fighting effort.
A task force of around twenty Parks Victoria/Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) project fire fighters from the South Gippsland District , including Foster, Tidal River and Wonthaggi, was dispatched to Bairnsdale on Thursday. They returned on Sunday night for a rest but it is highly likely that they will be sent out again. Along with the north west and the Grampians, East Gippsland continues to be an area of major concern. On Monday there were still 17 fires in the Club Terrace area alone. The Princes Highway was opened to traffic on Monday morning after it was closed due to the fire situation between Orbost and Cann River.
Foster Fire Brigade members Terry Williams and Brian Mellor, along with other South Gippsland Group CFA members were part of a strike team of fire fighters from the South Gippsland area who assisted at a fire in the Westbury area, north of Moe, last week. The Welshpool tanker, Toora tanker and the Toora ‘Big Fill’ tanker left South Gippsland early on Friday morning. The CFA brigade members fought all day alongside other CFA strike teams from across Victoria in atrocious weather conditions to contain the fire. After a very exhausting day they were relieved by Foster brigade members Asahel Heeney, Fiona Moss, Lieutenant Sam Westaway and Captain David Jones on the Friday afternoon. The fire fighters worked all through the night to contain the fire and were relieved by new crews on Saturday morning. By Monday the fire at Westbury was listed as controlled, though crews continued to patrol the fire area to extinguish any hot spots. This fire grew to 166ha and roads remained closed in the area for some time
The Foster CFA captain said he would like to take the opportunity to thank the employers of brigade members for their understanding and continued support in allowing brigade members to attend fires or other emergencies during work hours.
“In South Gippsland we still have some green grass around, but the green is disappearing very quickly as the grass is rapidly drying out, and if people don’t do the right thing, brigades could get very busy,” said David Jones. “If it weren’t for the understanding and support of employers, fire brigades would struggle to offer this essential emergency service to our communities.”