Concerns over high fuel loads in Loch Sport area

Michelle Robinson and Christine Cater in national park which surrounds Loch Sport.
Michelle Robinson and Christine Cater in national park which surrounds Loch Sport.

LOCH Sport residents facing a dry, hot summer are on high alert, with some fearing high fuel loads in and around the isolated coastal town are putting them in danger.

Resident Michelle Robinson said people were scared, and there was "constant" talk on social media of the abundance of dry timber left on unoccupied properties, and in the Lakes National Park.

She has questioned Wellington Shire's response that there had been "high compliance" in town

areas to clean-up orders, and said a drive around town would reveal many empty holiday properties still had large amounts of dry garden waste that had not been cleared.

But her biggest concern is the amount of tinderdry fuel in the national parks around Loch Sport.

She said there was growing concern that a fire that started in the national park would spread quickly and cause catastrophic damage.

"I have contacted Parks Victoria, but have not received a reply; this is very serious and needs to be looked at as soon as possible," she said.

"The fuel load is dangerous and tinder dry; too high and thick for any reduction burns.

"Loch Sport has one road in and one road out, and national park all around.

"This is where I live, it's my home, but I feel we are in danger."

Another resident, Christine Cater, said one solution she wanted to put to Parks Victoria was to allow residents to collect firewood from the parks, to remove the large numbers of fallen trees and branches.

"A lot of the dead and fallen trees have already been cut up, but it's all been stacked up, which I think creates a further risk," she said.

"Why not let people take it out, just to clear it before the hot conditions gets worse?"

Forest Fire Management Victoria Gippsland deputy chief fire officer Beth Roberts said FFMV had plans for fuel reduction works in areas around Loch Sport.

"Planned burn preparation works, including verge mulching and track maintenance have commenced in and around Loch Sport and are planned to continue throughout December and January," Dr Roberts said.

"There are also plans to complete fuel reduction burns to the west and east of Loch Sport when suitable conditions permit, including appropriate fuel moisture readings and weather conditions.

"There are three project fire fighters based in Loch Sport who will carry out planned and targeted non-burn fuel treatment works such as slashing, reducing fuel loads etc around the broader Loch Sport area.

"The timing of this work depends on fire response requirements, which is priority.

"There will be cultural heritage assessments done before these works commence as there are known areas of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage within the Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park."

Comprising staff from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Parks Victoria, Melbourne Water and VicForests, FFMV manages fire preparation and response on public land.

Parks Victoria and traditional owners, the Gunaikurnai people, are the land managers for the Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park.

A Parks Victoria spokesman said the authority regularly monitored the parks, and would send fire managers to the specific sites of concern to determine how much dead wood needed to be removed. He said he had recently spoken with Mrs Robinson.