Fire could burn for weeks: CFA

THE Aberfeldy-Donnely bushfire has claimed at least one life and 21 homes.

The body of 84-year-old Stan Hayhurst was found in a burnt out vehicle in the Seaton area about 5pm Friday.

The death is being investigated by the coroner.

Residents and property owners in the Seaton area were able to visit their properties on Saturday to assess damage after emergency services personnel from Victoria Police, SES, CFA, DPI, SP AusNet and Wellington Shire Council worked to ensure access.

Residents returning have been urged to wear protective clothing including sturdy footwear, heavy-duty work gloves and protective masks, and, where at all possible, try to avoid taking children onto fire-damaged properties.

Access to the area remains restricted to residents of the immediate area, people providing recovery and relief services, council or VicRoads employees or sub-contractors and business owners.

Residents and property owners in the Seaton area need to provide clear proof of occupancy within the area. This could be in the form of photo identification (for example a driver’s licence).

With the fires immediately around townships being controlled, CFA and the Department of Sustainability and Environment undertook a 180 hectare back burn on Sunday.

Incident controller Michael Masters said CFA and DSE undertook the work in anticipation of predicted high fire danger weather on Thursday.

“The risk of high temperatures and a north-westerly wind possess a very significant risk to the Aberfeldy-Donnely bushfire breaking containment lines if we don’t back burn,” he said.

“This critical 180ha back burn will reduce fuel loads in the unburnt area five kilometres south of Glenmaggie and six kilometres north-west of Heyfield.”

Speaking at a community meeting in Maffra on Saturday, deputy controller Stuart Broad said fire crews were also working on the eastern perimeter in the Coongulla state forest north-east of Glenmaggie to strengthen containment lines.

He said with fire entering remote and elevated terrain, crews could be working to control the fire “for a few weeks”.

“We know that the next couple of days, we have a southerly influence of wind which is good news for Heyfield, but understand that when you’ve got 48,000ha of fire and 45,000ha of that is in remote, elevated country it’s very, very hard to get (containment) lines around,” Mr Broad said.

The Aberfeldy-Donnely fire had burnt about 56,000ha of private and public land as of yesterday with about 500 fire crews from many parts of the state working around the clock.

Strike teams from metropolitan areas descended on Heyfield on Friday, with more than 270 personnel on the scene with 50 trucks, two bulldozers and 13 aircraft providing support.

Many businesses in Heyfield supported the firefighting efforts by providing free meals to emergency service personnel.