Lightning storms earlier this week started a number of fires in the high country, including one in the Buckland valley, Tawonga South, and on the Old Coach road between Mt Hotham and Harrietville. Parts of this area has been burnt three times in a little more than 10 years, with huge impacts on the alpine ash forests of the upper Ovens Valley and surrounding watersheds.
In total, there were eight fires in the Alpine and surrounding areas. The Australian Workers Union reports that “several of those were dealt with by ground crews and contained, but it was up to Ovens and Macalister Rappel crew to get into a fire in an extremely remote area near Mt Feathertop. The 12 forest firefighters who rappelled in were able to control the fire and keep it to a little over three hectares within a few hours. There were dead Alpine Ash trees littering the ground, as well as steep terrain with which to contend. It took them two and a half hours to walk 800 metres downhill. Fires such as these offer terrible potential, and in this case there were memories of the 2012-13 Harrietville fires which covered about 30,000 hectares and took four to five weeks to contain”.
Let’s hope 2015/16 is another year without major fires in the mountains.
Forest firefighters employed by DELWP (Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning) are taking industrial action at the moment. You can find out about their campaign, and support them here.