Victoria’s south west still the focus

27 March 2018

Communities in Victoria’s south west are being supported as they recover from the impacts of the four major fires. The health and wellbeing of these impacted communities, and emergency management personnel is a key focus.

The four fires have burnt through around 15,000 hectares with 24 houses and 63 sheds lost, as well as machinery, hundreds of livestock, pasture and silage.

Emergency management agencies remain focused on Victoria’s south west, with smoke emitting from a number of fires burning underground.

A number of peat fires are burning within the perimeters of two of the four fires, which results in smouldering underground. This is contributing to poor air quality in the areas of Cobrico and Elingamite North, both near Cobden.

Peat is created gradually in wetlands through the build-up of partially decayed vegetation and once it has been ignited, it is very difficult to extinguish. The peat fire of most concern is burning near Cobrico and is 58 hectares by seven metres deep, and burns similarly to briquettes, releasing a lot of smoke as it burns.

Smoke from burning peat can reduce air quality, particularly within 1km of the fire, as the smoke contains fine particles, water vapor, gases including carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides. It may also contain sulphur compounds which are odorous.

Firefighters continue to work hard to extinguish the peat fires and suppressing the smoke and gases associated. A number of people have been relocated from zones around the peat fires and relief centres have been established for people to seek respite. Air monitoring and community health monitoring stations have also been established.

Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the health and safety of firefighters and the community was the highest priority.

“There has been a lot of great work done at incident and regional level and in the community, organisations, agencies, councils and volunteers are all working together,” he said.

“Community members in identified areas have been relocated as a precaution. Being displaced will be difficult, but it is an important safety measure. Everyone needs to take steps to protect their health and seek out the appropriate advice for them.

“The community has done a great job at following warnings and advice, from the very outset of the fire. This incident will continue for some time and we thank them for the continued cooperation.”

More information is at emergency.vic.gov.au/relief (External link)