Kangaroo Island fires destroy four homes, community prepares for extreme weather

The Kangaroo Island fires have destroyed four homes, eight sheds and lots of fencing and pasture, but stock and wildlife losses have been surprisingly low.

KI residents were briefed on the latest on the fires at a community meeting at the Kinsgcote Town Hall on Friday afternoon, December 27.

CFS incident controller Mark Thomason told those gathered that were still unburned areas within the Duncan fire and that firefighters were focussing on those areas, as well as the fire edges.

There was potential for the fire to flare up in the next four days, particularly on Sunday and Monday when extreme fire weather conditions were forecast for the Island.

The CFS was concerned the increased temperatures, coupled with northeast and northwest winds, could push the fire inland.

The Menzies fire to the east had now been contained other than some trees burning inside the containment lines.

The KI fires had now burned 19,000 hectares and the fire boundary was 122km long. There were around 100 firefighters working on the fire ground at any given time and being cycled through.

There were 22 firefighting appliances, about 50 farm fire units and eight pieces of heavy machinery working. A makeshift firefighting village had been set up at the Parndana showground.

There were also two fixed-wing water bombing aircraft on the fire ground with the CFS able to call in others as needed.

He urged all residents to be aware of fire warnings over the coming days and to decide early to stay or leave.

Some of the local firefighters from the western end, whose homes were in the line of fire, had already decided to evacuate their families, Mr Thomason said.

KI mayor Michael Pengilly said the fire could be burning for many weeks to come.

The council was assisting the CFS and other agencies as needed and some preliminary recovery meetings had already taken place.

Administration and workers had been working on the fires and he made special mention of councillor, Parndana farmer and CFS member Sam Mumford, who had been on the fires every day.

He said the community was there for those who had lost homes and property, and also tourism businesses on the north coast impacted on by the fire.

Council CEO GregGeorgopoulos said he appreciated how the community had come together, but acknowledged communication could be improved on issues such as bushfire safe zones.

The KI Council was now keeping its website updated with road closures and other information.

Local police also gave an update on the road closures, which at the moment were Tier 3 allowing residents to go in to their properties.

Police are also still conducting damage assessments but the cause of the fire was lightning.

The CFS then gave a general talk on the fire danger ratings, particular the catastrophic rating when even a well prepared house was not safe.

About 80 per cent of houses that burn down are set alight by embers and having water around was key.

Deciding to leave early was key as vehicles offered little or no protection from radiant heat and driving could be very dangerous.

The CFS KI community engagement officer had now set up a website.

Lyn Dohle from PIRSA gave the crowd the good news that stock losses had been very limited, which was incredibly good luck with farmers able to move stock or the stock themselves moving to safer ground.

There had however been considerable losses of fencing, pasture and hay, but PIRSA was working to assist farmers with offers of assistance.

PIRSA was also working with the Department for Environment and Water and KIPT on helping assess and help injured wildlife, which at this stage had been minimal.

There was then a brief question and answer session with Stokes Bay residents wanting to know about the eastern boundary of the fire and its potential to spread.

Mr Thomason said firefighters were working hard on containment but one area of concern was around Middle River reservoir, where the priority was to secure the Island's water supply.

This area had thick bushland, which was challenging firefighters.

Stokes Bay resident Dan Pattingale shared his experiences last Friday from watching the lightning strike to having the power and landline go out in an area not serviced by mobile phone signal.

There were questions about upcoming weather and winds, and Mr Thomason said KI was peculiar when it came to winds that could be erratic.

Discussion was also had about bushfire safer places and where people, particularly tourists, could go on Catastrophic fire days,

Holiday home operators wanted to know what to tell their guests.

The Council CEO said Kingscote and Penneshaw were the designated bushfire danger places and specifically the ovals in those towns.

He acknowledged more work needed to be done on communicating the presence of the zones to the public and also working on what amenities could be provided to those sheltering.

Some businesses offered to open their shops and hotel to the public while there was mention of visitors "cafe hopping" during last Friday's catastrophic day.

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