A large bushfire has ravaged the local communities of Poolaijelo and Langkoop in the south-west Wimmera since New Year’s Eve.

The fire started in South Australia, near the border of Victoria, as a result of a car fire on Friday 31st December at 1.30 pm. Weather conditions caused the fire to spread east into Victoria, crossing Fergusons Rd, near Ryans Rd and into the Meereek State Forest, with over 7,330 hectares of grassland and scrub burnt.

Fire crews from CFA, Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMV) and South Australia’s Country Fire Service, with the support of Aircraft and heavy machinery, have battled the fire since it started and continue to build containment lines to stop the further spread of the fire.

“Fortunately, we have seen no losses to homes at this stage, however, there has sadly been livestock and wildlife losses throughout the area”, said Incident Controller Mark Gunning.

Agriculture Victoria staff are currently working with property owners supporting them in managing their stock losses. Fire affected farmers with animal welfare concerns or livestock needing to be assessed can call Agriculture Victoria District Veterinary Officer Amy Sluggett on 0457 837 840.

Wildlife losses have also been reported with some old native forest affected, which is famous for its red tail cockatoos. For injured wildlife, members of the public are urged to take care if attempting to help injured or distressed animals outside of the fire area. Improper rescue techniques by untrained or inexperienced persons can cause further distress or injury to the animal and put the rescuer at risk. Wildlife Officers have been deployed into the area to assess wildlife, and community members can contact 136 186 if they encounter an injured native animal.

The fire has also seen some local roads closed, with Casterton-Apsley Road between Dergholm-Edenhope Road and Fergusons Road, west of Powers Creek, closed due to many large gum trees (above) which border these roads damaged by fire or continuing to burn.

Incident Controller Gunning said, “Trees affected by fire provide a significant risk to public safety due to falling branches and therefore the need to have the roads closed until crews assess and remove those trees that are at risk”.

“With the support of Victoria Police overseeing Traffic Management Points, we are able to have crews working hard to assess these hazardous trees to re-open roads as soon as possible, and we recommend that community members stay patient and keep up to date about the roads via the Vic Traffic website or calling 13 11 70”.

The fire has also affected Community Infrastructure, which has seen Powercor crews working to re-establish power around 70 properties in the area. In addition, CFA crews are ensuring that the Gas Pipeline running underground through the area is not affected by fires burning in the vicinity of the line.

Residents should also be aware that water tanks could become contaminated due to debris and ash from the fire being flushed into tanks, so prior to any rain, residents should consider disconnecting their tanks from rooflines and allow the first rain to flush out debris from the roof onto the ground and not into the tank.

Local timber plantations have also seen losses due to the fire.

“Timber plantations losses to date are estimated to be approximately 800 hectares, valued in excess of $10 million with Forest Industry Brigades having 16 appliances, a helitak and 40 firefighters at the fire currently, working alongside FFMV and CFA volunteers”, said Anthony Walsh, Manager of Green Triangle Fire Alliance.

Incident Controller Gunning outlined that weather conditions over the next few days will see fire crews re-enforcing established containment lines.

“The fire is still very active in the area, and we ask the community to stay informed via the VicEmergency App, which will provide you with up-to-date information about the fire and support your decision making in respect to you and your families actions”.