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Major fire fighting effort protecting public and state's important values


The Parks and Wildlife Service General Manager Peter Mooney has acknowledged the efforts of Department staff, Tasmania Fire Service, volunteers and interstate firefighters who are continuing to undertake a major effort to protect the public, infrastructure and the natural and cultural heritage values of the State’s reserves in fire fighting operations around the State.

As a result of fires burning to the east of Cradle Mountain and the Overland Track, the Overland Track has been closed and will remain closed until Tuesday, 2 February 2016.

“Additionally, access into Cradle Mountain has been closed as of 3pm today.

“While there is no immediate threat to walkers, we have increased the level of alert and believe the most prudent course of action is to not allow walkers to be put in harm’s way,” Mr Mooney said.

“We are also implementing strategies to ensure that the safety of walkers currently on the track is not compromised.”

Many of the day walks at Cradle have also been closed today and it is likely there will be further closures for the next several days at least.

Mr Mooney said 34 reserves have been affected and an estimated 11,380 hectares of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area has been burned by the more than 80 fires that have been reported around the State and the co-operative effort from all agencies involved had helped minimize the impact on the values of the reserves.

“While life and property is always the priority of the co-operative fire fighting effort, the Tasmanian Fire Service has been working closely with our Agency to prioritise protection of high value areas within the reserve system as well,” Mr Mooney said.

“As part of the planning botanists from the Department have been working to identify high value areas that may be affected based on fire behavior modelling and these areas have been targeted to put protection measures in place.

“It is important to note that not all fire in the natural landscape is destructive but we are aware of fire sensitive communities within our reserves and protection of these is undertaken as part of the fire management strategy planning.

“For example remote area fire crews were deployed to the Lake McKenzie fire complex and the Lake Gordon fire where they put lines in place around areas of high conservation value.

“Today, specialists are undertaking aerial surveys of some of the fires as well to identify other areas where work may be required based on the latest fire mapping and modelling.

“Our Agency cannot commend enough the work of these remote area crews, who are highly trained and undertaking difficult work in areas well away from roads and other infrastructure that is playing an important role in protecting these significant areas.”

Mr Mooney said a lot of planning had also gone in to visitor safety within the reserves during the fires.

“We have established a visitor management team which is prioritizing areas where visitors may need to be relocated or area/tracks closed to ensure public safety remains paramount.

“As part of this, we have air tankers available to target the Cradle Mountain fire as soon as conditions allow to halt the spread of the fire in that area which had moved to within 8 kilometres of the mountain and was moving towards Cradle Valley.

“Our staff are continuing to monitor the situation and all intending visitors should check the PWS website, Facebook Page and liaise with Visitor Centre staff on the latest information.”

Mr Mooney said although a campfire ban is in place in all high risk areas, it was disappointing to see that during the past weekend when a four day Total Fire Ban was in place, staff were required to extinguish nearly 20 campfires in the State’s south.