Victorian High Country Fire Tracks

Submitted: Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 19:56
ThreadID: 68368 Views:2429 Replies:5 FollowUps:2
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I don’t know if just me, but we went on a drive up to the Woods Point area recently to find some old tracks I used back in the late 60’s for camping and shooting.

Back then, they were called Fire Tracks for obvious reasons. There also use to be fire shelters dug into the side of cut outs along some roads.

Try as I might, we couldn’t identify one access track or any shelters. We came across a couple of possibilities, but they were so over grown, no fire truck would be able to gain access into the bush.

I also came across the same thing last year in the Big River area.

All the tourism tracks seem to be well maintained, but it made me wonder what happened to the Fire Track network, and the maintenance of them.

Perhaps there’s been a change of thinking over the years, and I’d be interested to know why.



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Reply By: Member - Paul W- Esq (VIC) - Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 20:03

Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 20:03
I haven't been up that way since about 87 or 88, we went to Mt Matlock and i remember the fire shelters were in good nick with hessian as doors with a bucket of water at the ready.don't remember much about the trails but i think they were OK as we used some of them. me dont remember to well any more either-hehe
AnswerID: 362321

Reply By: Member - Mick O (VIC) - Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 20:21

Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 20:21

there was a very interesting program on ABC radio about this and the fires in 1937. Those fires were apparently as horrific as those of this year but there were greater numbers of people living and working in the forest areas than there actually are today (which surprised me but it was backed up with census information from the times). The difference was that in those days it was a lawful requirement for all people to have fire bunkers particularly in the many timber mills in the forests. While these bunkers were often just holes or excavations covered with logs and then earth, they resulted in a much lessened loss of life in those fires. Most isolated mills suffered very few fire casualties. A case in point were several newer mills that flaunted the forestry commission regulations and every person employed there perished.

Like the old forestry trails, they have gone by the wayside as technology and society progresses.

Cheers Mick.
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AnswerID: 362328

Reply By: Eric Experience - Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 21:23

Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 21:23
The state and local Government are opposed to the building of fire dug outs. there logic is that if someone dies in the bush that's there problem but if some dies in a fire dugout its a Government problem and some department may get blamed, that is why they have closed down fire refuges. We will here more about this over the next few months. Eric
AnswerID: 362342

Reply By: Crackles - Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 21:36

Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 21:36
One by one the dugouts have all been dozed in to the point where I don't believe there to be any left. Back in the 80's many were in a pretty ordinary condition with the timbers rotting so no doubt were removed to avoid them collapsing on someone. I suppose with the improvement in weather forecasting, better roads & vehicles, the chances of getting caught up in the bush compared to when they were built has decreased, making them somewhat outdated, if not in the wrong locations.
The majority of the fire track network is still intact & in most cases vastly imroved. The tracks that have been closed or let overgrow were more often than not duplicated tracks or logging tracks, many being deadends. Particually with the speed of this years fires I doubt additional access tracks would have made a scrap of difference. Dugouts on the other hand could have made an impact & individuals & communities should have built them when they decided to live up in the bush.
Cheers Craig...................
AnswerID: 362344

Follow Up By: Kim and Damn Dog - Thursday, Apr 30, 2009 at 17:13

Thursday, Apr 30, 2009 at 17:13
Gidday Craig

Back in those days the shelters were principally built for Fire Fighters, not campers. In many cases there was also an adjacent fire dam, which you can still see evidence of today in some areas.

In the period I’m talking about (1960’s), there was minuscule camping compared to now. The logging tracks were also considered to be an integral part of the network.

Following the devastation of the 1939 Black Friday fires, Judge L.E.B Leonard reported his findings:

You will note the parallels even after 70 years.
I’m a very strong supporter of fire resistant community shelters being built in high risk areas. It's a complex subject, so we'll have to see what comes out of the next inquriy.


FollowupID: 630165

Reply By: Sigmund - Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 22:51

Wednesday, Apr 29, 2009 at 22:51
I think it's been too expensive for Parks Vic and DSE to maintain the old network of tracks.

When the fires start the policy seems to be to only fight them when lives or property are at risk.

Course the bouts of fires we've had, what, 3 this decade?, have wiped out a lot of tracks. There are even walking tracks in popular national parks that are still to be restored after the 03 fires.
AnswerID: 362364

Follow Up By: Beddo - Thursday, Apr 30, 2009 at 19:55

Thursday, Apr 30, 2009 at 19:55
I went down to the fires in VIC around Alexandra & Lake Eildon, spoke to several locals some from Marysville etc one bloke said the shelters had been closed due to OH&S issues with the public - not maintained. I also asked when this area was last burnt - he replied 1939; Ok that's in the catchment area ! I then asked what about over the ridge outside the catchment area ? he stated 1939 ! I then asked what about around Marysville ? The reply was 1939 !!!!!!!

As for tracks - you'll find many tracks are built for access to logging areas & then are let go (revegetate) until the need to harvest the forest again. Actual fire trails are maintained that are a strategic importance to fire fighting ie link to a natural barrier etc. These I guess will be funded not only by State funding but also Fed funding as NSW does.
I think some of the fire trails in VIC now should be called Fire trail highways - we saw trails along ridge lines being widened to approx 100m up around Lake Eildon.
Cheers Beddo
FollowupID: 630203

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