Myrtleford town meeting: Upper Murray fires to burn for months

Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE
Picture: JAMES WILTSHIRE

Firefighters and incident managers have made no apologies for issuing early emergency warnings to Myrtleford residents, saying just because the region was unaffected on Saturday doesn't mean it is out of danger.

Darren Skelton of Ovens Incident Control Centre said until significant rain falls in the region, the bushfires currently burning would continue to burn and pose a danger to residents.

"Until we get 50mm of rain [these fires] will continue to burn in our landscape and continue to merge together and continue to get bigger," he told Myrtleford residents in the north-east Victorian town on Monday night.

Mr Skelton said although the situation had cooled slightly, the battle was far from over with the current fires expect to burn for months.

"This is going to be a long event unless we get that other intervention [rain]," he said. "These fires are big, they're burning in really inaccessible country, they're complex to manage, we've got communities in valleys all around them.

"We're in January 6, if this was the end of February we'd be saying okay we've got some cooler months ahead, but we've got eight to ten weeks or more depending on the rain to get through this as a region and as a community."

Deputy incident controller Jarrod Hayse said heat and wind would be returning to the region later in the week.

"I don't have my crystal ball," he said.

"But what I'm seeing with the development of these fires is anything is likely to happen. If those westerly influences are strong then yes, Merriang, Nug Nug and Myrtleford could come under either direct fire impact or impact from spotting and embers."

Mr Skelton said emergency messaging was designed to allow residents time to leave safely and in an orderly manner to avoid accidents on the roads.

He said it was also based on the potential behaviour of the fire in multiple scenarios.

"Our messaging is designed to get it to you as soon as possible, we're not going to wait until the embers start landing in your front lawn," he said.

"We're hoping to give you the most time to leave...we might put out an emergency warning like we did the other day. Some people have said 'it was miles too early, Myrtleford was never going to be under impact'.

"But that fire Jarrod talked about in Buffalo Valley, if it had of spotted another three kilometres further north and then spotted again, suddenly Myrtleford was in the picture.

"We don't want to wait until it's at your door we want to give you as much time as possible to leave knowing there's a whole range of things you have to do."

Councillor Peter Roper said residents should not wait for police to knock on their door and tell them to evacuate.

"If it does go bad it's not going to be ho hum, it's going to be truly horrific," he said.

"If you don't need to be here, my message is go because we could... have an event of immense danger that could possibly put everyone in the community in danger."

This story Ten-week long battle ahead unless significant rain falls first appeared on The Border Mail.