Firefighters shaken by near miss battling conditions 'as difficult as they get' at Rosedale blaze

| 05.01,19. 04:26 PM |

Firefighters shaken by near miss battling conditions 'as difficult as they get' at Rosedale blaze

Photo: Firefighters battled difficult conditions to contain the fires in Gippsland. (ABC News: Bridget Rollason)

Firefighters in Victoria who lost a truck, trailer and bulldozer in "a very serious situation" yesterday are hoping cooler weather will help efforts to put out a suspicious blaze in Gippsland.

The fire threat has eased in the Rosedale area, in Gippsland, with an emergency alert downgraded to an advise message for a number of towns in the area, including Sale, Rosedale and Longford.

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said three fire crews — one from the CFA and two from Fire Management Victoria — were forced to protect themselves when the wind change came through yesterday.

"They found themselves in a very serious situation and they were shaken as a result of it," Mr Crisp said.

"I have spoken to both the chiefs of those organisations, but they're safe and well and they are being well looked after and … we will learn from this."

He said there would be a review into the incident.

Fire crews battled conditions "as difficult as it gets" to control the fires in extreme heat yesterday, with 10,000 hectares of plantation and native forest burnt by this morning, but no homes or lives lost.

"Conditions yesterday for firefighting were about as bad as they get, it was hot, dry conditions," CFA state agency commander Garry Cook said.

"The conditions there, in a drought area, with really dry fuels and then a big southerly change that came in behind it … that's about as difficult as it gets to contain fires.

Mr Cook said the Rosedale fire was still in the vicinity of properties in surrounding towns and warned people to be on alert.

"Fortunately now with the milder conditions, the fire's not spreading intensely in any direction but there's a lot of work for firefighters on that particular fire," he said.

"It's pretty much contained to the plantation and parkland and native forest in that area, but there is farmland and communities within reasonably close proximity to the fire."

Fire crews are also optimistic about containing a grass fire that burned overnight at Strathbogie, in north-east Victoria.

The alert for Ancona, Merton, Strathbogie and Strathbogie South has been downgraded to an advice message.

Victorian Police and Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville congratulated firefighters and the state control centre for their quick actions to get that fire under control.

"I think at 3:00pm yesterday, I pointed out that I thought that we were about to head into the danger period, as the change came through, we were going to face both dry lightning as well as significant wind changes and that's really what we saw yesterday afternoon," she said.

"To get to a point where we've got Strathbogie at advice level — when that started, the effort to get aircraft up straightaway was extraordinary and that's been able to contain that to a small fire in what is quite treacherous and very difficult areas to get to."

Strathbogie, Rosedale fire suspicious

Nearly 200 fires burned across Victoria yesterday, and authorities were treating both the major fires as suspicious.

"At this stage … there were no dry lightning strikes in that area at this particular point in time," Mr Crisp said.

"So, it seems unusual that these fires have actually started. So therefore, they're deemed suspicious and we will have to let those investigations run their course."

Victoria has already endured more than 700 fires since the start of December.

Forest Fire Management Victoria urged campers to obey total fire bans in the wake of a number of blazes across the state yesterday sparked by unattended camp fires.

With temperatures climbing above 40 degrees Celsius across much of Victoria, authorities declared a total fire ban for the entire state.

Chief fire officer Chris Hardman said there was no excuse for people to have camp fires during total fire bans.

"Within five or 10 minutes on a really dry day it can be five hectares in size and then if we don't get fire fighters there very quickly it can spread.


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