Fire crews, aircraft and heavy machinery are continuing to work on containing the Gell River fire that has now burned through around 20,500 hectares of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area in the state’s South-West.
The fire is burning in the Vale of Rasselas and along the Denison and Gordon ranges, in a south-south easterly direction – the southern front is around 10 kilometres northwest of Tim Shea.
Over 60 Tasmania Fire Service, Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service and Sustainable Timber Tasmania fire crews and incident management personnel have been working on the fire, with the support of eight aircraft.
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Sustainable Timber Tasmania confirmed on Monday the south-east front of the fire had damaged assets, but the extent of the damage was not yet known.
On December 27, lightning ignited two separate fires in close proximity which joined shortly after to create the fire.
A sprinkler line at Lake Rhona has protected fire-sensitive vegetation like pencil pines. Vegetation around two lakes to the west of Lake Rhona have escaped substantial fire damage.
The World Heritage Values present in the alpine plateau above Lake Rhona and areas of mixed forest and temperate rainforest are particularly sensitive to fire damage, at TFS spokesperson said.
Specific World Heritage Values at risk from the fire include pencil pines, king billy pines, peat soils and cushion plants.
TFS incident controller Steve Richardson said suppression operations conducted by fire crews and water bombing aircraft had been successful to date with many active fire edges minimised.
The western side has burnt in buttongrass, upslope into the Denison Range around Lake Rhona and other alpine lakes before self-extinguishing on ridge tops.
"Most of the fire suppression activities involve ground crews with hand tools or hoselays being supported by helicopters,” Mr Richardson said. “Firefighters are using the best techniques and technologies suitable for the timely and safe extinguishment of this fire.”
"Although the fire is still uncontained, good progress is being made utilising favourable weather conditions in bringing the fire under control however due to the complexities of the vegetation and terrain, the fire will not be extinguished completely.
“The fire is burning in very difficult and challenging terrain."
An advice message is current for Maydena, Tyenna and National Park, with a community meeting planned for the Maydena Community Hall at 7pm on Thursday, January 10.
There is no current threat to the public, though Tasmania Fire Service are urging the public to monitor the TFS website for updates.
Smoke is likely to impact the Southern Region for the coming days. People with medical conditions are advised to have a personal plan for avoiding smoke from the burn.
A number of roads and walking tracks remain closed.
The state government said union claims suggesting parks and wildlife staff have been reduced are false.
On Thursday, TFS deputy chief officer Bruce Byatt said efforts were undertaken to extinguish the fire initially, but buttongrass could often obscure which areas were burning.
“There was a significant effort put in to controlling that fire by all agencies prior to that significant weather day,” he added.
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