Smoke from fires burning in the Huon Valley seen from Lonnavale. Picture: PATRICK GEE
Smoke from fires burning in the Huon Valley seen from Lonnavale. Picture: PATRICK GEE

Emergency warnings issued for Tassie

6.15PM UPDATE: A fifth bushfire emergency warning has been issued for the Huon Valley, with the area of Geeveston now on alert.

The Tasmania Fire Service says the Riveaux Rd bushfire will put the area north of Geeveston at very high risk within the next six hours including the areas around Donnellys Rd, Harwoods Rd, Fourfoot Rd, Fairy Falls Rd, Braeside Rd and Castle Forbes Rd.

 

4.15PM UPDATE: A campground in the Huon Valley has been evacuated after an emergency warning was issued for the Lonnavale township.

About 200 campers were still at River's Edge Wilderness Camping at Lonnavale this morning.

The campground will now remain closed until the operators are given the all clear by the Tasmania Fire Service.

Police visited the campsite this afternoon to warn people of the impending threat.

Also at Lonnavale, a local man plans to evacuate his 27 Siberian huskies if fire threatens his home.

Sled Dog Adventures Tasmania co-owner Peter De Vries has a truck ready to load his dogs onto a flee the blaze if needed.

He said they would constantly assess the fire situation and weather to decide when to go.

"It's a hard call to make, we don't want to jump the gun," he said. "If we go prematurely, we've got to go with 27 dogs, which we have to feed and look after away from home.

"But we wouldn't want to have the dogs here if the fire comes through.

"We'll just wait and see, all you can do it keep updated. It's all unpredictable and things can change quickly."

Howling winds blowing in multiple directions have hampered firefighting efforts. Locals said the fire was currently burning on top of Bee Tree Hill about 15km south of Judbury.

Up to five firefighting aircraft, including the fixed-wing airtanker are battling to stop the blaze from spreading.

An orange glow and smoke is billowing from the hills south of Judbury.

The Sled Dog Adventures Tasmania Siberian Huskies were originally rescue dogs. They now take tourists on dry land rig sled tours around the Huon Valley during winter.

A community meeting and information session about the Riveaux Road/Tahune Airwalk bushfire will be held today at 7pm at the Huonville PCYC, 42 Wilmot Rd, Huonville.

www.fire.tas.gov.au

 

UPDATE 3.30PM: THE Tahune fire in the Huon Valley has this afternoon reached Bee Tree Hill, about 15km south of Judbury.

Up to four helicopters and a fixed-wing aircraft have been patrolling and waterbombing the front in the effort to stop the blaze from spreading.

An emergency warning was issued for Judbury and Glen Huon this morning. A northwesterly breeze has persisted for most of the afternoon, preventing the fire from pushing north quickly.

Two houses are currently under threat with their owners watching there fate from She Oak Rd.

A community meeting and information session about the Riveaux Road/Tahune Airwalk bushfire will be held today at 7pm at the Huonville PCYC, 42 Wilmot Rd, Huonville.

 

Sled Dog Adventures Tasmania co-owner Peter Devries is prepared to evacuate with his 27 rescued Siberian Husky sled dogs from their property at Lonnavale. Picture: PATRICK GEE
Sled Dog Adventures Tasmania co-owner Peter Devries is prepared to evacuate with his 27 rescued Siberian Husky sled dogs from their property at Lonnavale. Picture: PATRICK GEE

Earlier today, about 200 campers were on high alert in Lonnavale as the out-of-control fire pushed north towards Judbury.

River's Edge Wilderness Camping onsite manager Prue De Vries said they would evacuate the site if told to leave by police.

She said they were monitoring the situation closely and would alert campers when it changed.

A couple of people had already decided to leave before the emergency warning was issued for Judbury.

Camper Paul Vaughan said staff were doing a "fantastic job" keeping everyone updated and were in constant contact with authorities.

www.fire.tas.gov.au

 

UPDATE 1pm: THE Tasmania Fire Service has issued four bushfire emergency warnings for the Huon Valley as firefighters expect strong winds to put pressure on containment lines this afternoon.

The TFS issued the warnings for Judbury, Glen Huon, Lonnavale, and the area of Bermuda Rd, south of Judbury around 1pm. There is an evacuation centre at Huon Valley PCYC.

There is also an updated emergency warning for the bushfire raging at Great Pine Tier in Tasmania's Central Plateau.

The TFS issued the warning at 11.24am for the eastern edge of Lake Echo, South of Shannon, Waddamana, Synots Sugarloaf, and Bashan Plains.

The Great Pine Tier fire is expected to put the listed locations at risk today. There is an evacuation centre at Bothwell Town Hall.

TFS station officer, state operations Darren Gye said crews were on the ground at Waddamana working to protect vital power infrastructure.

Mr Gye said crews were also in the process of shoring up containment lines around Bracken Ridge Rd and Oigles Rd at the Riveax Rd/Tahune Airwalk fire.

Smoke from fires burning in the Huon Valley seen from Lonnavale. Picture: PATRICK GEE
Smoke from fires burning in the Huon Valley seen from Lonnavale. Picture: PATRICK GEE

"We're closely monitoring the weather conditions," Mr Gye said.

"We're expecting that these forecast north, north-westerly winds, probably pressing more easterly as the afternoon wears on, those wind gusts up to 40km/h and probably a little bit more [are] going to put some significant pressure on our containment lines.

"We will be doing whatever we can to keep the fire where it is."

Mr Gye said it was important for people to remain vigilant and ensure that they have their bushfire survival plans in place.

For more information, visit the TFS website or listen to ABC local radio.

 

UPDATE 9.30am: A bushfire watch and act alert has been issued for Judbury, Lonnavale and Glen Huon in the Huon Valley this morning as firefighters continue to battle blazes around the state.

An emergency warning remains in place at Lake Echo, Waddamana, South of Shannon, Mt Hay, and Stockyard Flats and all areas in between in the Central Plateau.

Four bushfire community information meetings are scheduled to take place today.

There will meetings at Maydena Hall at Kallista Rd, Maydena at 12.20pm, Huonville PCYC at 42 Wilmot Rd, Huonville, at 12.30pm, Bothwell Town Hall, Alexander St, Bothwell, at 3pm, and Miena Community Centre, 55-59 Cider Gum Rd at 6.30pm.

 

GEEVESTON UPDATE 6pm: The emergency alert for Geeveston has been downgraded to watch and act this afternoon after still conditions aided firefighters.

The watch and act message has been issued for Castle Forbes Bay, Geeveston, Port Huon, Cairns Bay and Waterloo.

About 120 people attended a community briefing at Geeveston hall this afternoon, where they were told to remain vigilant.

Another briefing will be held on Tuesday night ahead of severe fire danger on Wednesday.

Almost 300 people sought shelter at the Huon Valley PCYC evacuation centre last night.

Mayor Bec Enders said they would keep the centre open as long as it was needed.

 

GEEVESTON UPDATE 4.20pm: An out-of-control bushfire has burned closer to Geeveston overnight but favourable conditions are helping firefighters get closer to the front.

Smoke has settled in around the Huon Valley township with visibility down to about 300m.

Fire crews encountered a tough night with the Geeveston brigade called out to a spot fire on Oigles Rd off Arve Rd at 3am.

An emergency warning remains in place for Castle Forbes Bay, Geeveston, Port Huon, Cairns Bay and Waterloo.

Tasmania Fire Service Geeveston taskforce leader Andrew Skelly said there was no need for alarm or panic as the fire still had to travel a fair distance to impact residents.

"[Friday] night we had a pretty busy night: winds didn't abate, a couple of little fire fronts pushed out slightly, [there was] a small spot fire, and crews were out patrolling a bit," he said.

"It's moved a little bit closer and jumped one of the tracks that we were hoping would hold overnight."

He said police doorknocked some houses overnight to let locals know the fire was getting closer and they needed to activate their bushfire survival plan.

Police have moved the Arve Rd road closure to just out of Geeveston.

Mr Skelly said the wind had died down in town, which was making their job easier.

"But it's really thick smoke so we won't be able to get any helicopters up until the smoke clears," he said.

"A couple of dozers are there creating some control lines around the spot fire.

"The worst problem is any sort of slight breeze and we're getting the black ash falling around.

"It's a bit cooler so hopefully we won't get any sport fires in and around town on a day like today, but people need to vigilant and if they do see any fire ring triple-0 and report it straight away."

Geeveston Fourfoot Rd homeowners Donald Gordan, Robert Drake, Anthony Burgess and Ayden Burgess are ready to defend their properties if spot fires flare up.

The men have a water tanker set up in their driveway to put out grass fires and help friends out if needed.

"We're concerned, you can't be naive in these situations," Anthony said.

"We're prepared to stay and do what we need to do.

"We've got the gutters blocked and a sprinkler going on the roof."

He said they were getting their information straight from the local fire station and were prepared to stay until they were told to go.

He said they were in for the long haul with the fire not expected to go out anytime soon.

jack.paynter@news.com.au

 

Bush fires January 2019 Tasmania. Smoke settles at Geeveston after the wind speed dropped. Picture: CHRIS KIDD
Bush fires January 2019 Tasmania. Smoke settles at Geeveston after the wind speed dropped. Picture: CHRIS KIDD

 

Bushfires (bush fires) January 2019 Tasmania. Huonville volunteer Tom Andrews fights a fire within the rainforest near the Tahune area. Picture: WARREN FREY/TFS
Bushfires (bush fires) January 2019 Tasmania. Huonville volunteer Tom Andrews fights a fire within the rainforest near the Tahune area. Picture: WARREN FREY/TFS

EARLIER, 12.40pm: EMERGENCY warnings remain in place at four locations on the Central Plateau and one at Geeveston as uncontrolled fires continue to put some communities at risk.

A warning remains in place for Riveaux Road/Tahune Airwalk at Geeveston, along with four separate emergency warnings for the Great Pine Tier fire on the Central Plateau.

Evacuation centres have been set up at the Hamilton Community Hall, Bothwell Town Hall, and the Huonville PCYC.

An additional six Nearby Safer Place refuges have been set up in the Huon region at Geeveston, Castle Forbes Bay, Kermandie, Dover and two at Port Huon.

For locations, check the TFS alerts page.

The TFS advises these are not evacuation centres but places of refuge.

The TFS has maintained the warning for Zeehan on the West Coast to Watch and Act, the second-highest bushfire alert.

The TFS advise the Zeehan fire remains uncontained and may put the town at high risk. Fires under these conditions can be uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast moving.

Eighteen Watch and Act alerts are in place at Riveaux Rd and Gell River in the Southwest and for Great Pine Tier on the Central Plateau.

 

The TFS advises the community to:

Heed the total fire ban;

Review your bushfire survival plan now;

If you don't have a bushfire survival plan, decide now what you and your family will do if a fire breaks out in your area;

If you decide to stay and defend your property, make sure you are physically and mentally prepared for this and be aware that in the predicted conditions, even properties you think you can defend will be undefendable

Continue to report unlisted fires to TFS by calling triple-0;

Listen to ABC Local Radio and visit www.fire.tas.gov.au for the latest bushfire information and advice.

A statewide total fire ban has been declared until Monday, January 28 at 2am.

During a total fire ban no fires can be lit in the open air for any purpose.

 

EARLIER, 11.15pm: THE Tasmania Fire Service has revealed the extent of bushland lost across the state as a result of the uncontrolled fires continuing to put some communities at risk.

The TFS confirmed a total fire line of 969km - the approximate distance between Hobart and Newcastle.

Fire weather conditions reached severe in some parts of the state on Friday and several fires broke their containment lines including the Great Pine Tier fire which is suspected to have doubled in size to around 40,000 hectares.

The TFS also reported 82,585ha of bushland has been burnt by the fires - an area similar to California's second largest city, San Diego.

A total fire ban remains in place until Monday as bushfires continue to cause concern for fire crews.

 

MORE FIRES:

Reported property lost among the 56 active fires include a homestead at Miena, a kayak shed at Tahune and a 3mx3m fishers hut at Lake Laura.

Heavy smoke shrouded Hobart's CBD on Friday night, while fire weather warnings remain in place for the Furneaux Islands, North East, East Coast, Midlands, Upper Derwent Valley, South East and Central Plateau forecast districts.

The TFS advises the community to:

Heed the total fire ban;

Review your bushfire survival plan now;

If you don't have a bushfire survival plan, decide now what you and your family will do if a fire breaks out in your area;

If you decide to stay and defend your property, make sure you are physically and mentally prepared for this and be aware that in the predicted conditions, even properties you think you can defend will be undefendable

Continue to report unlisted fires to TFS by calling triple-0;

Listen to ABC Local Radio and visit www.fire.tas.gov.au for the latest bushfire information and advice.

 

EARLIER: TASMANIA has sweated through a day of extraordinary bushfire risk without loss of life or homes - but continued vigilance is essential, authorities have warned.

Temperatures at Hobart Airport reached 40.1C and winds of 60 to 80km/h were experienced in parts of the state before a cold front moved in from the west to ease the threat.

The West Coast town of Zeehan and Geeveston in the state's south were the focus of most concern as uncontrolled fires raged nearby. Both appeared to have been spared.

 

Blackened tree trunks after a controlled back burn in Miena. Picture: HEATH HOLDEN
Blackened tree trunks after a controlled back burn in Miena. Picture: HEATH HOLDEN

 

Fanned by the strong winds, two fires on the Central Plateau broke out to expand beyond 20,000 hectares each and pose threats of further spread.

But the worst fears of authorities - a band of dry lightning sparking further uncontrollable fires - did not eventuate.

There were no reported injuries and the property toll for the week stands at three structure losses: a lodge and a fishing shack near Miena and a shed in the Tahune area.

BUILDING LOSS A STARK REMINDER OF FIRE'S REACH

 

Smoke from Central Highlands fires blows across farmland near Bothwell. Picture: PATRICK GEE
Smoke from Central Highlands fires blows across farmland near Bothwell. Picture: PATRICK GEE

 

The state enters the weekend with total fire bans still in force, with 56 active fires, 500 firefighters in the field, 71,000 hectares burned and a fire perimeter exceeding 1000km.

Heavy smoke is expected to hang in the Huon and Derwent Valleys for days.

Tasmania Fire Service chief officer Chris Arnol said the fight was far from over and it was essential people remained vigilant over the weekend.

"It remains hot, windy and the fuels are incredibly dry in this state right now," he said.

"We have still got a long way to go today and we can't underestimate the situation that we are in.

"There is a significant amount of fire in the landscape right this instant. And we can't let our guard down."

 

A road block at Waddamana Road. Picture: PATRICK GEE
A road block at Waddamana Road. Picture: PATRICK GEE

 

Tasmania Fire Service district officer Andrew McGuinness said the threat to Zeehan appeared to have eased.

"It's unlikely that Zeehan is going to be impacted but again I would suggest that people in those areas need to remain vigilant. They need to remain alert because things can change really quickly," he said.

"The Geeveston fire has behaved itself relatively well today. It hasn't taken a hard run. It has thrown out spot fires in a number of locations to the southern end of the fire."

The Great Pine Tier fire in the Central Highlands and Gell River fire to the north of Maydena both remain large and active blazes.

"Within very close proximity to one another we've got two really big fires burning in largely inaccessible areas," Mr McGuinness said.

"We're sort of going to have to wait for Mother Nature essentially to look after those."

Premier Will Hodgman passed on his thanks to local, interstate and overseas firefighters who stood unflinching in the face of an almost unprecedented bushfire threat.

He said the state and commonwealth governments would work to mitigate the financial impact of the fires.

"I have today spoken with the Prime Minister and we've had support also from the Assistant Minister for Home Affairs Linda Reynolds and Senator [Richard] Colbeck and they've assured me that the Federal Government will do all that it can to assist us in our effort and help cover the cost of fighting these fires.

"My department's Office of Security and Emergency Management has activated the disaster recovery funding arrangements today to trigger this assistance for covering firefighting costs contributing to that to ensure that we can protect assets and indeed the public.

"I've written to the Prime Minister as well today to confirm that and the clear message I've received from the Commonwealth is that they will indeed also support our firefighting efforts, our personnel, [with] the resources that are required."

 

Dark clouds of smoke blow southeast from bushfires burning near Waddamana, Bronte Park, Shannon, Lake Echo and Pine Tier Lagoon. Picture: PATRICK GEE
Dark clouds of smoke blow southeast from bushfires burning near Waddamana, Bronte Park, Shannon, Lake Echo and Pine Tier Lagoon. Picture: PATRICK GEE

 

Senator Colbeck said the Federal Government would do what it could to help.

"During my conversations with the Prime Minister this morning he assured us that he is there for Tasmania and I think that's a very important message for us to convey," he said.



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