Fire zone open tomorrow

THE Tasman Peninsula will be opened to the public from tomorrow night, after property owners were let in yesterday morning for the first time since fire swept through the area. 

Tasmania Police began letting residents, property owners and business operators into the worst-hit area at 10am yesterday, two hours before the Arthur Highway was officially reopened. 

More than 120 properties were lost between Murdunna and Dunalley, Boomer Bay, Dodges Ferry, Forcett and Primrose Sands. 

Chris Behrens was eager to return to his home at Murdunna after a frustrating six-day wait.

Although it was still standing when he was evacuated by police on Saturday afternoon, the 49-year-old was anxious about what he would find. 

``They think the fire may have been coming back that way,'' Mr Behrens said.  

Robyn Ransley's Carlton River home survived the bushfires, but she was unsure whether  two other properties at  Taranna and Salt Water River had been destroyed.

``Can't wait to get down to have a look,'' she said at the police checkpoint. 

Ms Ransley, also 49, was looking forward to being reunited with her children and grandchildren, from  whom she has been cut off  since leaving on Sunday. 

Police Commander Peter Edwards said there had been a steady stream of vehicles passing through the checkpoint. 

``There is a degree of anxiety,'' he said.

  ``There's a whole range of emotions that we're  seeing. We   think this is an important step in the process in helping people work through those emotions.''

Police and Health Department staff were on hand to issue advice and protective gear to those returning. 

``All of the interstate advice to us is that injuries increase once people return to their sites. As you can understand there is burnt iron, there is going to be broken glass, there is going to be unknown things under the ash.'' 

He said it was important that the victims had time to assess the damage and grieve before the public was also allowed back.

 Police later said that the road would be open to all from 6pm tomorrow, with tourist buses to  Port Arthur  allowed in from tomorrow morning.   

``We simply ask (the public)   to obey the speed limits,   to recognise that a lot of people here have been affected and respect that, and   I think the municipalities would say to them `Feel free to spend your money  here','' Commander Edwards said.  


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