Conditions are mild but fires are still moving

AFTER a hot start to the week, cool conditions have allowed crews to make good progress on various works across all four major fires in east Gippsland.

Monday’s warm and windy weather saw fires grow significantly in size, with the fire grounds now more than 42,300 hectares, 11,300 more hectares since Sunday night.

Incident controller Andy Gillham says the milder conditions over the past few days and nights has allowed crews to safely burn out strategic smaller sections near the fires.

“Getting these small sections of back burns completed means we now have strengthened key sections of control lines to assist us in slowing fire spread,” he said.

“As locals would know the steep and hilly terrain across much of the firegrounds in these areas is quite challenging to work in, which makes direct firefighting efforts for ground crews and machinery difficult in parts of inaccessible terrain.

“We’re focusing a lot of our efforts on strategic control lines and fallback lines right across the east Gippsland landscape.”

It comes as a base camp is being set up to house around firefighters and incident management staff at Swan Reach Recreation Reserve.

The base camp will soon be a home away from home for around 300 firefighters, incident management teams, contractors, volunteers and others involved in the fire response in the area.

Base camp manager Ashley Hall said while it only took around three days in total to set up the almost fully self sufficient mini-city, it was a complex logistical project.

“Forest Fire Management Victoria has three of these base camp packages on board all year round at our warehouse, which is made up of many containers with tents, kitchens and supplies, ready to be loaded onto the back of trucks and carted quickly to where they’re needed,” he said.

“Today we’re halfway through set up and expect to start having our first people start to stay over from Sunday.

“We’re really conscious of the upcoming school holidays and summer breaks many people are taking in coming weeks, which is why we don’t want to clog up local accommodation where possible during this peak period.

“We’re extremely grateful for the Swan Reach community for hosting us for the next month or so at least, and appreciate everyone’s flexibility while we’re set up here at the oval”.