No end in sight for Tasmanian bushfires

Australia

Bushfires are still threatening southern Tasmania with no end in sight to the massive blazes which have already ravaged the state for weeks.

Communities in the Huon Valley and the central Tasmanian plateau are at risk, while smoke blankets many areas and 16 low-grade warnings are in place around the state.

Easing weather conditions on Friday reduced the fire threat for the day but authorities say the danger is far from over.

“We’ve got challenging days ahead,” Tasmania Fire Service state fire controller Jeff Harper said.

Several emergency warnings have been issued.

Several emergency warnings have been issued.

Tas Fire Service

“February is a historically a difficult time for fires and we will be in this space for a number of weeks to come.”

On the back of Tasmania’s warmest and driest January on record, there is little rain forecast for February, with fuel loads up to 30 per cent drier than normal.

Crews are bracing for hot, dry weather to return on Sunday, when a total fire ban will be in place.

Nearly 600 personnel, including about 150 from interstate and New Zealand, continued to work on the blazes which have destroyed more than 187,000 hectares.

“The important message we have to send is that those emergency warnings could go up at any time.” Mr Harper said.

Some residents have returned home at Geeveston, one of the towns southwest of Hobart once most at risk, but many people remain at an evacuation centre at nearby Huonville.

Three firefighters have been hurt on duty, with a Sustainable Timbers Tasmania contractor taken to hospital after being injured by a tree limb battling the Riveaux Road fire.

One volunteer is being assessed for spinal damage after a vehicle rollover, while another involved in the crash has been released from hospital.

What's left of the Tahune airwalk.

What’s left of Tasmanian tourist attraction, the Tahune Airwalk.

Tas Fire Service

Emergency services have also been forced to deal with deliberately-lit blazes and drones flying over fire ground.

Police are investigating reports of a fire being lit on the Tasman Highway at Buckland, northeast of Hobart.

Near Geeveston an airborne drone was seen in the area, threatening to ground airborne firefighting efforts.

“Aircraft are extremely expensive to operate and when they’re on the ground it’s a waste of everyone’s time and money,” TFS officer John Holloway said.

“It’s potentially putting people at risk who are relying on those aircraft to protect them.”

In Hobart Magistrates Court, a man charged with looting southern properties evacuated during the fires, did not enter pleas to theft and trespass.

Jeremy Alexander Godwin, 42, of Police Point in the Huon Valley was denied bail, The Mercury newspaper reported.

Tasmanians who have been displaced by the fires and require clothing, food, transport, shelter and personal items are eligible for a emergency assistance grants.

The fires have claimed three homes and a near-century-old trapper’s hut, plus damaged the popular Tahune Airwalk tourist attraction.

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