Australia’s bushfires destroy Tasmanian wilderness retreat as emergency crews look ahead to hot, windy weather
Fire crews faced difficult conditions on Tuesday night, 22 January 2018, as they continued to battle dozens of blazes across Tasmania, with the public told to stay out of remote areas until after the upcoming long weekend for their own safety. On Tuesday night, the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) confirmed one property had been destroyed near Miena, a small community in the Central Highlands. The owners of the Skittle Ball Plains Homestead, about seven kilometres from Miena, were at the property on Tuesday afternoon with TFS personnel when the property, which is sometimes used as a fishing retreat, caught fire at around 17h00. "The residents and fire fighters that were working to defend the property are safe," the TFS said in a statement.
As the clock ticked over to midnight (local time) there were still six emergency warnings in place, impacting residents in Liawenee, Shannon, Miena, Penstock Lagoon, Tods Corner and Barren Tier.
Watch and Act alerts were current in Morass Bay, Flintstone and Wilburville. More than 50 fires still burned across the state. On Tuesday, Bruce Byatt from the TFS said the focus was on protecting communities and significant assets. "The fires that we have going now are not under control and we expect the weather conditions will make them worse and cause us further problems," he said.
People are being urged to stay out of remote areas from now until the end of the popular Australia Day long weekend. "Given the high fire conditions across the state [on Tuesday], a number of additional reserves and walking tracks in Tasmania's national parks have been closed," Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) said in a statement, adding it was "highly likely that further closures will be announced as the situation unfolds".
PWS said while the South Coast track and Tasman Peninsula tracks remained open "at this time", it would "continue to monitor fire behaviour".
More than 24 aerial fire fighting appliances were working across the state on Tuesday, with a large airtanker on its way from New South Wales. Smoke alerts have been issued for many parts of the state, including greater Hobart, with some fire fighting aircraft grounded due to smoke and weather conditions.
The Bureau of Meteorology forecast a front to cross the state late on Tuesday night, which was expected to bring a cool change, but the reprieve in conditions was not expected to last long. The bureau's Simon McCulloch said the conditions were still building up to be hot and windy on Friday. "We are expecting strong, gusty north-westerly winds, that is probably the key factor," he said. "Friday will be the worst day of the season."
A total fire ban remains in place until 2h00 on Wednesday for southern and northern Tasmania.