Fire service on high alert as mercury soars

FIREFIGHTING strike teams are being deployed across the state as the Tasmania Fire Service declares total fire bans in the North and South today.

The mercury is tipped to hit 38 degrees in Launceston and surrounding areas, pushing the fire danger close to ``severe'' in parts.

The conditions have prompted the fire service and the state government to call for vigilance from the public.

The warning came as Tasmania Police received reports of melting roads around the state yesterday.

The fire service's regional chief officer in the North Jeff Harper said residents should be putting bushfire plans into practice.

``The public as always should be vigilant about any fires,'' he said.

``It's a good time for them to review their bushfire plans and their alternative plans and practise it.''

Fire danger ratings in the Midlands and central North and parts of the North-East will be in the ``very high'' range for up to nine hours today.

Sixty per cent of the region will be approaching ``severe'' fire danger for up to six hours. 

``We will be deploying strike teams to Campbell Town and . . . in the Northern region at headquarters ready to go,'' Mr Harper said. 

A regional control centre will be set up in the North, feeding information to central command in the South. 

Acting deputy chief officer Jeremy Smith praised the public's efforts during the first bushfire season since last January's catastrophic inferno in the South.

``We're praising the community in doing some sensible work out there and being responsible with fire so that's excellent,'' Mr Smith said.

A fire service spokesman said the Midlands and Fingal Valley would be closely watched. 

``Just be mindful of the effects of fire and don't do anything that will cause sparks or fire,'' he warned. 

Police Minister David O'Byrne said the Tasmanian bushfires were a potent reminder of how serious the situation was.

``With 16 new firefighters joining last month, extra water-bombing helicopters and a new air foam truck to battle bushfires, we're fully prepared,'' Mr O'Byrne said.

Attorney-General Brian Wightman said people should be on the lookout for suspicious or reckless activity. 

``The smallest oversight, such as flicking out a cigarette butt, could have devastating consequences on an extreme fire danger day,'' Mr Wightman said.

For more information and to stay up to date on any bushfires keep your eyes on the TFS website at www.fire.tas.gov.au and the TasALERT website at www.alert.tas.gov.au and your ears to the radio.

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