The Grampians fire - When? Where? What?

Submitted: Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 10:40
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The Grampians fire in Western Victoria brought death and widespread destruction to thousands of hectares of native forest and right out into the farm lands reaching almost to Willaura, in excess of 160,000 hectares or around 620 square miles in the old language I know better. Many business and lives will be laid waste for some years trying to recover from the assult. One wonders the native animals that have suffered by such a bush fire too, as well as the farm animals that were in the path.

Does anyone know where this fire started exactly? It had been named the Mount Lubra fire so I presume that it was on Mt Lubra. How accessible was the point of the fire and was it possible to have contained it at any stage prior to the broadening of the outbreak that caused such devestation? What time of day did the outbreak ocurr and what time was it reported? Could equipment have been dropped in to stop the losses earlier? What team was first on the scene and how big was it at that stage?

I must say that last Sunday the 22nd felt much like Ash Wednesday 1983 in the intensity of the heat and the wind velocity. The weather forecasts were warning us of such a day several days ahead and The Age was reporting the fire as a 100,000 hectare fire on the 23rd of January.

This is a pretty seriously dangerous event, and I know that there are fireys and other emergency services people that post here. It would be interesting to know a little more please......
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Reply By: Member - Blue (VIC) - Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 12:54

Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 12:54
I may be speaking WAY out of school here John but I have another question. For my own curiosity, was any fuel reduction effort made leading up to summer...??? Also, would this fire have had any chance of growing to this monolithic scale had fuel reduction taken place(assuming it hadn't)?
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Follow Up By: Member - JohnR (Vic)&Moses - Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 17:19

Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 17:19
I couldn't possibly assume Blue, there are so many beautiful plants there ...
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Follow Up By: Member - Blue (VIC) - Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 20:36

Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 20:36
Dunn, Dunn, Daaaaaaaaa... Captain DSE... Oops, I mean Chaos... I mean... Well, one in the same me thinks...

And I'm sure the plants are soo much more beautiful now they've been turned to ash...
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Follow Up By: Truckster (Vic) - Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 11:25

Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 11:25
how did your place fair Blue? Any fire damage out there?
Might take ya up on ya offer for riding in few weeks, Cams got the taste for it here at "the Als"..

as for was any hazard reduction done,I'd say not a chance...
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Follow Up By: Member - Blue (VIC) - Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 12:05

Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 12:05
Truckster...
from what we heard, there were a couple of Grass fires in the district but none too close to our place. I'll be heading up in the next week or so just to have a look around.

The Caravan I spoke about is now gone, the council made me get rid of it... Temporary accomodation is only allowed on the property with a permit while you're building a house... Stupid rules. The pergola is still up and I've boxed it in a bit for shelter, that is until they make me pull that down also...

We are heading up there on the last weekend of Feb for a buck's weekend, probably not the sort of thing young Cam needs to be exposed to(a dozen or so drunken yobbo's)... Any other time is fine. Just shoot off an email if you notice any damage...

Should be plenty of firewood laying around, might pay to take a chainsaw and there's an axe wedged in under the roof of the pergola to split the wood...

The bloke nextdoor is Lloyd, he may swing by to say g'day but he's never hassled us about bikes or the like up there.

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Follow Up By: Bonz (Vic) - Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 22:44

Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 22:44
The first fuel reduction burn on the Gramps for 20 years is almost out. 75% or the perimeter contained. Good job guys., looks like the wildflowers will be saved
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Follow Up By: Member - Blue (VIC) - Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 22:54

Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 22:54
So you're saying it was a fuel reduction burn and not a bush fire, is that right Bonz...??? Geez they don't muck around when they decide to do something, do they...???
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Follow Up By: Truckster (Vic) - Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 22:58

Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 22:58
I agree Bonz, best to do a hazard reduction all or nothing..
that way, the greens cant argue.
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Follow Up By: 120scruiser - Monday, Jan 30, 2006 at 12:25

Monday, Jan 30, 2006 at 12:25
The best time to do a hazard reduction is during a fire.
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Follow Up By: Bonz (Vic) - Monday, Jan 30, 2006 at 18:57

Monday, Jan 30, 2006 at 18:57
What I am saying is that the burn did reduce fuel and the bush will regenerate, albeit more slowly in places where the fuel load was SO HIGH that the burn was very hot, in those cases it takes a little longer.

All's I am saying is that its easier to explain rather than get permission
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Follow Up By: Member - JohnR (Vic)&Moses - Monday, Jan 30, 2006 at 21:06

Monday, Jan 30, 2006 at 21:06
For Bonz benefit, there are a few other things one hears on the sidelines that may take a few more explainations. No more for now.
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Follow Up By: Bonz (Vic) - Monday, Jan 30, 2006 at 21:34

Monday, Jan 30, 2006 at 21:34
One day we may have a chat John. Being that we lost 150 poles during the fire up there and have had twice daily updates for the past week I knkow a bit.
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Follow Up By: Member - JohnR (Vic)&Moses - Monday, Jan 30, 2006 at 22:17

Monday, Jan 30, 2006 at 22:17
I tried your number too but you didn't answer on the mobile. I am sure there will ultimately be some embarrassment for the management and the huge cost where the State is currently trying to cover it by throwing money.. Loss of lives, disruption to business and lives all at the lack of a decision at the original point.

Keen to chat mate.
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Reply By: 120scruiser - Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 13:26

Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 13:26
John R
As a NSW RFS officer, in answer to your questions,
Don't you think if it was possible to contain the fire initially, they would have. We don't just sit back and wait for it to get bigger so all can enjoy. We are all volunteers and most have jobs or business's, well I do and we have better things to do than tromp around the bush putting out fires.
I can't speak for the CFA but in NSW we have RAFT (Remote Aerial Firefighting Teams). They are dropped into remote areas to attempt to knock these fires out before they become a danger but they are only done so if safe to.
We have SOP's (Standard Operating Procedures) to follow and the first is the safety of yourself and if an officer the safety of your crew. You may think this is all BS but if the SOP's aren't followed and somebody is killed, criminal charges can be brought against the officer of that crew. Its not much point charging into the forest into the unknown if you have no hope of success except getting fried like the Wingello disaster.
I have just been stood down with in the last hour and a half as I was to fly to Victoria this afternoon with 200 other NSW RFS personnel but due to the rain they stood us down, so that means I can go to work tonight as was planned prior.
By what I have seen about the fire front on the news, there is no way I would put my crew any where down a fire trail in front of that inferno. That would have been suicide.
As for hazard reduction, I can't comment on CFA regulations but in NSW we put paper work in after paper work to do these major reductions and it is constantly knocked on the head by the EPA or National Sparks and Wildfire due to endangered species or for a number of other reasons. There are regs like once an area has been burnt you have to wait seven years before you can do it again. All crap as far as I am concerned. If you do a controlled hazard reduction with low flame height and intensity, the endagered species have a better chance of recovery than when a fully fledged fire front wipes everything out. Unfortunately some snotty nosed person with a degree decides these factors from his desk and usually has no idea about the background of wild fire suppression.
I hope I haven't interpreted your questions the wrong way so please don't take offence of my response. Just trying to put a bit of fact into the background of wild fire suppression and containment.
Cheers
120scruiser.
P.S- I feel for all the victims but at the end of the day we fireys are only human and can only do so much. Sometimes when you have a few crews at a fire you can suppress it quickly before the thing gets bigger and then IMT divisions are introduced which slows the process down. Like anythiing it can get top heavy at times.
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Follow Up By: Member - JohnR (Vic)&Moses - Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 14:27

Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 14:27
Thanks for your comment 120cruiser.

There is a letter to todays Warrnambool Standard to the Editor in regard to another fire starting at Mt Eccles in Western Victoria that raises a few important questions too.

To quote;
" I was particularly concerned to learn of a report on ABC radio that the Mt Eccles, Bessiebelle and Tyrendarra fire could have been quickly nipped in the bud by quickly employing aerial water bombing in inaccessible terrain following a lightening strike in the middle of the Mt Eccles stony barrier.

"The fireman reporting the smoke requested aerial water bombing assistance, which was refused by someone in authority.

"According to the fireman reporting the fire, there was ample time to send a water bombing plane to extinguish what was at that stage a small fire.

"Those of us who have had to face and fight an out-of-control fire on extremely hot days are well aware of the importance of getting onto a fire quickly before it gains a stronghold, particularly when ectreme hot weather is forecast the next day.

"I can imagine how this fireman felt and I too, would not have slept that night worrying about the consequences of an out-of-control fire burning in the Mt Eccles volcanic stony barrier knowing that over 40 degree Celcius were forecast the next day.

"I agree with the questions being asked
* Who made the decision not to send a water bombing plane?
* Why was a nearby farmer not permitted to encircle the spotfire with his dozer?
*Who is responsible?

Unquote

I guess you have summarised things with your comments about "snotty nosed person with a degree decides these factors from his desk and usually has no idea about the background of wild fire suppression" but I could not possibly comment. Remember though that in Victoria we have a DSE or Department of Scortched Earth - once again it would appear

There is another letter to The Standard highlighting how a fire was quickly dealt with by DSE, CFA tanker crews and and an experienced bulldozer driver at the West Barwon Dam. Well done on that fire, perhaps they had learned a bit by then.
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Follow Up By: Truckster (Vic) - Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 11:28

Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 11:28
"As for hazard reduction, I can't comment on CFA regulations but in NSW we put paper work in after paper work to do these major reductions and it is constantly knocked on the head by the EPA or National Sparks and Wildfire due to endangered species or for a number of other reasons."

This is so true. in my 13+ yrs in the RFS, we probably had about 10% of our requested hazard reductions approved.

One was refused on the grounds of 1 rare plant that was found that they didnt want to risk damaging. Yes 1..
12 mths later the 1994 fires happened that destroyed many houses, and people died.

Votes win and the Greens will always get in the way....
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Follow Up By: firestang - Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 21:46

Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 21:46
The Mt Lubra fire was caused by lightning strikes and listed as going at 1130 hrs 21st jan with a size of 250ha
10% of the perimeter had been tracked.
On the 22nd it was 440 ha at 0400hrs

On the 23rd it had gone to 100,000 ha at 0900hrs.

Personally i think that a concerted effort when it fisrt started by the DSE with air support would have stopped it.
Problem being is that the choppers and fixed wind were grounded due to the weather and where it was situated ,the terrain is almost inpossible to get people into .

We watched the fire grow from 440 to 100,000 from the Moyston staging area on sunday ,all i can say is holly cow batman.

Then we went out to meet the bugger as it ran toward moyston sunday night ,missed the town by 1km, maybe less .This was not shown on the news.
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Follow Up By: Truckster (Vic) - Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 21:54

Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 21:54
"Personally i think that a concerted effort when it fisrt started by the DSE with air support would have stopped it."

How much air support are you talking?
I'm thinking your dreaming...
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Follow Up By: firestang - Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 22:06

Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 22:06
No Not dreaming truckster , i was there in the middle of it.
A concerted effort with the erricson's would have done alot to stop it.

9000 ltrs per drop x 2 does alot in the early stages ,thats the opinion of the local guys anyway, they know the area.
Plus the 5 smaller choppers and two fixed wing that were there.
They are not happy with the DSE at all, not by a long stretch.

We had two skycranes there sunday ,couldn't use em, grounded in a field 20 kms from Halls.

Problem was that they didn't think that it was gunna be that big, we only went there "in case".
how wrong they were.
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Follow Up By: Member - JohnR (Vic)&Moses - Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 22:18

Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 22:18
firestang, thanks for your comments. 250 hectares by 1130 hours was a lot later obviously than wen it started from a lightning strike. They are a bit like babies, they aren't born that size. You are also right about them not forseeing problems as was indicted by the fellow who wrote to the Warrnambool Standard about the Mt Eccles fire.

Their controllers seem to have NFI. It looks like they could have used them Saturday and minimised the costs to the community. Obvioulsy if you take on planning of a Park in the name of the State, you have to have the budget to work it, not just the foot paths.

I would like to see more investigation if you can please as to the time it was reported but perhaps DSE will keep that covered for the time being as it may be too embarrasing.
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Follow Up By: Member - JohnR (Vic)&Moses - Monday, Jan 30, 2006 at 21:10

Monday, Jan 30, 2006 at 21:10
firestang, any further knowledge on the birth of the fire?
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Follow Up By: Member - JohnR (Vic)&Moses - Monday, Jan 30, 2006 at 23:13

Monday, Jan 30, 2006 at 23:13
120scruiser I am hearing more and more that where it is a DSE managed fire they pull rank. The fire was a lightening strike in a DSE managed area. I have strong indications on when it started and how big the next day. It wasn't within the power of the CFA/ RFS as such to handle it. I just wish it had been.
- I guess they would already know what would come out of an enquiry.
- I guess that is why the state government is starting to throw money at it.
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Follow Up By: 120scruiser - Tuesday, Jan 31, 2006 at 08:24

Tuesday, Jan 31, 2006 at 08:24
John R
We have the same dramas up here with the National Sparks and Wildfire.
Thats why when we get a fire in an area that we know we can't HR we quickly get a large perimeter and run a drip torch around it before they can get on sight. They usually take a few hours to get there.
Your dead right about the enquirey and the government.
The CFA might be lucky and get a nice new embroided cap for their efforts like we did in 2001/2002.

Cheers
120scruiser
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Follow Up By: firestang - Tuesday, Jan 31, 2006 at 14:32

Tuesday, Jan 31, 2006 at 14:32
I think you are on the money there JohnR, from what i hear the same thing happened at Anakie also.
One farmer we talked to was after blood , he was lookin to send a lawyer after someone and it wasn't the CFA ;-)
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Reply By: Darian (SA) - Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 13:48

Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 13:48
A recent forumite (Woodsy) lives in the middle of it all - has a small business at Halls Gap - trust he will be on soon to report that he has survived and maybe an anecdote or two to pass on.
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Follow Up By: Member - JohnR (Vic)&Moses - Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 14:29

Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 14:29
Darian, I will welcome Woodsy's comment, I am sure there are a few people round who have some knowledge to add.
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Reply By: GOB & denny vic member - Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 14:28

Saturday, Jan 28, 2006 at 14:28
goodday john

i believe it was a lightning strike atop mt lubra in country that wasnt very friendly and that basically i think they had to wait for it to come out unfortunately the weather decided not to play ball and we have the result in front of us
if you have a lookat the cfa site it may give details although i think it was a dse fire so check there sight also

steve
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Follow Up By: Member - John (Vic) - Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 01:23

Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 01:23
"In country that wasn't very friendly and that basically I think they had to wait for it to come out"

Sorry Steve but I must have missed something here, don't we pay an enormous amount of money to have aerial water bombers from the States on standby to quickly respond to fires in areas such as you described?
This State government certainly leaves a lot to be desired in its attitude to this sort of thing.
I would have thought that several helicopters reacting quickly would cost a hell of a lot less than the ongoing cost of hundreds of trucks and crews.
Not to mention the risk to the lives of those crews.

Bracks & Thwaites be buggered.
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Follow Up By: GOB & denny vic member - Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 09:26

Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 09:26
goodday john
dont get me wrong i am not making excuses for the mongrels i am no longer in the cfa because of long a go bit of disillushment (spelling) but i do believe that the dse should be bought to answer for its crimes to the state of victoria with its burn and destroy policy and stuff any body else
true story my son in law fronted with his brigade a couple of years ago to a fire dse turned up"fire was on there turf " we will look after it sent cfa off and they sat down for afternoon cuppa
royce may be able to confirm /deny my son law is only down the road from him but that was how it was told to me

steve
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Follow Up By: Member - JohnR (Vic)&Moses - Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 22:23

Sunday, Jan 29, 2006 at 22:23
Steve, I have no concerns about the CFA. They are a legendary band of volunteers who brave all weathers and get to deal with very difficult situations. From firestangs post above the 240 hectares at 1130 hours and going on the Saturday, DSE didn't anticipate and deal with the the 'baby' before that time for whatever reason we are yet to discover.
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Follow Up By: Member - JohnR (Vic)&Moses - Monday, Jan 30, 2006 at 21:41

Monday, Jan 30, 2006 at 21:41
Steve, the DSE guys logging on to fight a fire the other day all said how they were being paid danger money to fight the fire in addition to ordinary pay, just as the CFA guys were logging off from NO pay and LONGER hours without breaks. Unequal pay and opportunity and where the paid ones stick it up the others does not lead to affection one would think. That is Bracksie's fire fighting force for you.
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