111,000 hectares up in flames

A police search team near Copping.
A police search team near Copping.

BUSHFIRES in Tasmania have burnt more than 111,000 hectares of bush and farmland - a bigger area than King Island - in six days.

And the tally is still growing, although hopes are rising that the state could escape fire fatalities.

The Forcett fire, which destroyed or damaged 126 properties on the Tasman Peninsula including much of Dunalley, had burnt through 22,420 hectares from the Woodvine Nature Reserve to Eaglehawk Neck by 7.30pm yesterday. 

Tasmania Fire Service senior station officer Chris Tomes said the Forcett fire was likely to continue burning ``for some weeks''.

``They have put in a considerable effort to try and put containment lines where they can around the fire, but it's burning in pretty full-on country and very difficult to get to,'' Mr Tomes said.

Mr Tomes said Tasmanian firefighters had two days of relief from warmer temperatures to bring fires under control, but difficult terrain and strong winds were hampering efforts around the state.

A fire at Curries River near George Town burnt towards farmland near Bridport and Dalrymple roads yesterday after burning through 69 hectares in 24 hours in the Tippogoree Reserve.

Twenty firefighters, two bulldozers and two water-bombing helicopters worked to protect a home that was threatened.

Northern fire region public information officer Michael Watkins said crews hoped to bring the fire under control last night but could do little but contain it to the reserve.

The state's largest fire, in the South-West, is still burning unchecked.

The 49,000-hectare blaze inland of Port Davey began on Thursday.

It has closed Scotts Peak Road, several tracks and the Huon and Edgar camp grounds. Visitors have been advised to stay away after bushwalkers were rescued by helicopter this week.

The Lake Repulse fire has burnt more than 11,201 hectares of bushland since Thursday and is not yet fully controlled.

Firefighters scanned 5000 scorched hectares at Half Moon Bay south of Bicheno yesterday with heat-sensing cameras to check that no hot-spots remained to cause a problem for firefighters when temperatures rise later in the week.

But Mr Tomes said that even if firefighters succeeded in controlling these fires, there would be more.

``Any time over the next 10 to 12 weeks, which is what we would expect the fire season to last for in Tasmania, we could see a repeat of Friday,'' he said.

``The conditions that we encountered - up to 42 degrees - were catastrophic, and meant that any fire that started was virtually uncontrollable.'' 


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