Earlier in the week, emergency warnings were issued for several communities in the Huon Valley, Tasmania with residents advised to consider leaving their properties for a safer place. The Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) said the fire danger rating reached severe and "exceeded forecast conditions".
ABC reported that crews contained a fire at the Southwood wood processing site after embers breached skylights, but there was extensive damage. The TFS deputy operations officer, Phil Smith, told a community meeting at Huonville it would affect employment in the longer term.
"We've been able to contain the fire but it has damaged some of the machinery, it's damaged extensively the outside and other parts of Ta Ann [timber mill]," he said. "Firefighters have been working along with crew from Sustainable Timbers Tasmania to try to preserve what can be salvaged from that site.
By mid-week, more than 520 crew were working on fires and 173,000 hectares had been burnt. The state is facing more challenging conditions in the days ahead, despite a forecast drop in temperatures. It is expected the change will bring little rainfall and a change in wind direction.
The Bureau of Meteorlogy’s rainfall data for January shows most of Australia averaging 20% or less than its average rainfall for the month. Amid the threats to properties, environment groups were warning of an unfolding crisis for Tasmania’s world heritage forests.
The Wilderness Society said the state’s firefighting crews were working to capacity protecting communities and properties and that international specialists should be brought in to assist with water-bombing of the state’s remote alpine areas.
“The scale of the fires, with over 2.5% of Tasmania burnt or burning, has overwhelmed firefighting capacity to the extent that little is available to combat remote fires in the Tasmania wilderness world heritage area,” the organisation said.
Vica Bayley, the Tasmania campaign manager for TWS, said “the impacted area in the world heritage area is significant already: many tens of thousands of hectares and growing every day and there’s no end in sight.
“We’d like to see the governments make the call now for additional international resources because it seems this emergency is going to drag on longer and threaten both properties and these irreplaceable wild places and we’ve got an obligation to protect both.”
Source: ABC, thegauradian.com