Fire authorities say a final figure of 116 homes have been destroyed by a bushfire that could burn all Summer in the region.
The number of homes destroyed in the Wye River fire on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road on Christmas Day 2015 has risen to 116, 5 town evacuated.
Country Fire Authority deputy incident controller Mark Gunning said 116 houses in Wye River and Separation Creek had been destroyed in the 2200-hectare blaze.
“That will probably be the final number, as we have just completed an extensive search,” Mr. Gunning said
The fire swept through bushlands and began to advance toward the town of Lorne.
And the emergency management commissioner, Craig Lapsley, said the blaze could continue burning until January or February. Even a dousing of rain on Saturday was unlikely to do much in the long term once the state began to dry out. “This fire doesn’t go away,” Lapsley said.
The nearby townships of Wye River, Separation Creek, Kennett River and Grey River were evacuated earlier on Friday afternoon. Emergency warnings remain in place for Wye River and Separation Creek, and both areas remained closed on Saturday afternoon.
“Power is out, though fallen domestic solar power lines remain a threat,” a Country Fire Authority notice said.
“There are a number of hazardous tress that have been burnt and are dangerous, and damage to septic systems can result in leaking sewerage and health hazards.”
Crews were assessing the full extent of property damage in area.
Watch & Act alerts were in place for Lorne, Allenvale, Kennett River and Grey River.
Strong local winds had blown embers over control lines, something that had only been expected to happen on a much hotter, windier day
“We always say that primacy of life is the critical issue in the state particularly after the royal commission [into the] fires of 2009. That’s the direct result of why we haven’t lost life for what is a very intense fire yesterday … people walked away from the fire that had every potential to be a killer.”
Daniel Andrews, the state Premier, said Victorians were “opening up their homes” and assisting people who had “not had a very good Christmas at all – people who are out of their homes, out of their areas and doing it tough at the moment. The very best comes out at the very worst of times.
This was a very challenging bushfire but in the planning and the execution and indeed in terms of the outcomes, no person has been harmed.
“It will be a very difficult few days, though, indeed many weeks, for those who have lost their homes, or at least have lost a premises. I can confirm that 35 houses are gone in Wye River, 18 are gone in Separation Creek. And the bushfire stopped just some 500 metres short of Kennett River. There would have been several more losses if it had kept going.”
The main firefront had not burned through Kennett River, but firefighters defending homes there had put out spot fires and no properties had been reported burnt.
Holidaymakers advised to stay away, and those away from their homes were told not to return until official notice was given.
Bushfires like this one happen often in Australia, citizens are alert, and fire plans in place, nevertheless there can be much damage and devastation, this one happen on Christmas Day.
By Rhys O’Connell
Paul Ebeling, Editor
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