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PWS Fire Update - Friday 15 February 2019

15/02/2019

Parks and Wildlife Tasmania (PWS) can advise the following locations, reserves and tracks have been re-opened today (Friday 15 February).More

PWS Fire Update - Thursday 14 February 2019

14/02/2019

Parks and Wildlife Tasmania (PWS) can advise the following locations, reserves and tracks have been re-opened.More

PWS Fire Update - Monday 11 February 2019

11/02/2019

As a result of the emergency service suppression efforts and calmer weather conditions over recent days, PWS can advise the following changes to track openings and closures.More

PWS - Fires Update

PWS - Fires Update

10/02/2019 11.00am

Background

A number of fires are burning within Tasmanian parks and reserves, including the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Other land tenures are also affected by these fires. Around 62% of the fire boundary area is on land managed by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS).

These fires were ignited by a number of bands of dry lightning that crossed the state in late December 2018 and mid-January 2019. The storms of 15 January 2019 resulted in approximately 2,400 lightning strikes and caused over 60 new ignitions.

The Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, in partnership with the Tasmania Fire Service, Sustainable Timber Tasmania and a number of interstate and international emergency service personnel, have been working for over a month in very hot, windy and sometimes unpredictable conditions in order to contain all the fires across Tasmania, prevent loss of human life and property as well as minimising the damage to natural and cultural heritage and critical infrastructure.

The long awaited and much anticipated rain and calmer weather conditions have aided the emergency service suppression efforts; now that the weather has settled specialist staff will be deployed onto the ground as soon as is safe and practicable to directly assess impact.

To date, the fire area has affected around 93,000 ha, or about 5.8%, of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and approximately 36,000 ha, or 3.2%, of other reserves managed by the Parks and Wildlife Service. Much of the affected area within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is in very remote and rugged terrain.

Preliminary impact assessment

The Parks and Wildlife Service have begun assessing the impacts of the fires on natural and cultural values, as well as built assets, such as walking tracks.

A desktop analysis of the mapped fire boundaries has provided some preliminary understanding of the impact. This analysis, suggests that a variety of vegetation types, ranging from communities that exhibit extreme fire sensitivity to communities that are fire adapted, have been affected by the fires.

Extreme fire sensitive communities are vegetation communities that contain components that will not recover from fire. This includes communities such as rainforest with king billy pine, alpine conifer communities, alpine deciduous beech communities and rainforest with deciduous beech.

Very High fire sensitive communities are vegetation communities that have a degree of fire resilience. For example, rainforest will be impacted by fire but can recover as long as other disturbances are absent in the post-fire period. Examples of Very High fire sensitivity communities include alpine and subalpine heathland without conifers, rainforest without conifers, and mixed forest.

Mixed forest is a forest type that is transitional between wet eucalypt forest and rainforest. It consists of fire adapted eucalypts with a fire sensitive rainforest understorey.

Fire adapted communities are vegetation communities that are not only able to survive fire but require fire for healthy ecosystem functioning. Examples of fire adapted communities include buttongrass, native grassland, eucalypt forest, heathland and scrub.

Early analysis indicates that 82% of the vegetation within the fire boundaries is fire adapted. Buttongrass has already begun to reshoot in many places.

Less than 1% of the Extreme fire sensitivity communities occur within the existing fire boundary area. There is confirmation that some pencil pines on the Denison Range have been impacted; this is the only impact to conifers currently known.

Within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, about 2% of the Very High fire sensitivity communities (excluding mixed forest) are within current fire boundaries and about 3.4% of the mixed forest is within current fire boundaries.

It is important to note that many of these extreme and very high fire sensitive areas within the fire boundaries will not have burnt due to the patchiness of the fire and the low flammability of these communities.

Several important Aboriginal cultural heritage values are known to be located within the fire boundaries. The impact of the fire on these values is not yet known.

Despite significant efforts to protect the heritage listed Churchill Hut along the Adamsfield Track it was destroyed by the fire.

Parks and Wildlife Service actions and operations

The Parks and Wildlife Service have utilised many established remote area firefighting techniques this fire season, as well as trialling new methods, in order to halt fire spread and protect vulnerable natural, cultural and historic values.

Modelling of fire behaviour has enabled strategic, carefully considered water-bombing, the best placement of hand constructed firebreaks, the strategic application of long-term retardant, the installation of kilometres of sprinkler lines and the wrapping of heritage huts in sisalation to protect these timber structures from ember attack.

The Fuel Reduction Program burns conducted by the Parks and Wildlife Service have also helped halt the spread of many of these fires. 

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PWS - Fires Update

04/02/2019 9.00 am

A number of fires are burning within Tasmanian parks and reserves, including the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. These fires were ignited by a number of bands of dry lightning that crossed the state around the 15th of January 2019.

Significant fire activity over January and into February has resulted in many of the fires spreading considerably. Many of the earlier fires have already joined up and are subsumed into a larger fire perimeter. An example is the Riveaux Road fire which has joined up with a number of other fires in the Huon River catchment.

There are a number of Incident Management Centres and Operations Centres established around the state to respond to the bushfire situation.

Parks and Wildlife Service have dedicated teams in place to deal with Natural Resource Protection Planning and Visitor Management. The Natural Resource Protection Planning team has been putting plans in place to anticipate fire behaviour and to protect and mitigate the impacts of fire on fire sensitive vegetation communities. This team is also identifying cultural heritage that is at risk from fire or ember attack.

The visitor management team is dealing with track and park closures and planning for visitor relocation should that be required. Most closures are periodic and several parks have now re-opened. Please check the Parks website for regular updates. Go to www.parks.tas.gov.au/closures

The very large number of fires ignited require a triage response for fire suppression activities and resources are deployed to the highest priority events.

The PWS have undertaken a desktop analysis of fire boundaries and have estimated the amount of different vegetation communities within these fire boundaries. These figures, included below, have not been field verified and so will include areas of vegetation communities that have not burnt, even though they appear within the fire boundary. The majority of wetter, more fire sensitive communities that have burnt will be those that occur along the edges of the drier, more fire tolerant communities, such as buttongrass and wet scrub.

This is an active fire incident and with the ongoing forecast fire danger weather the situation is likely to change rapidly. It will not be possible to update this information as rapidly as the situation changes.

West Coast (including Murchison River)

The fires burning in this area include Lynch Hill (2344 ha), Western Hills (estimated 6,499), Fowl Creek (29 ha) and Murchison River (2.5 ha) fires. The Murchison River fire about 11 km to the west of the Labyrinth in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is now in patrol and not likely to affect any sensitive values in the area.

Mount Anne area group

The fires in this group include Celtic Hill (3504 ha), Anne Gorge (1010 ha) and Gallagher Plateau (17 ha). These fires have not spread for a number of days but still have hot spots around the edge and will continue to be patrolled. Active fire activity in this area has stopped as the fire has hit low fuel areas such as the Eliza Plateau, has been actively suppressed, or has reached boundaries of wetter vegetation.

The Anne Gorge fire (to the south of Mount Sarah Jane) has burnt up the western side of Schnells Ridge but no further fire activity has been reported.

Sprinkler lines have been installed as a preventative measure to the south of Lake Judd to reduce the likelihood of fire running up the ridgeline to Mount Sarah Jane and impacting sensitive King Billy vegetation communities around Lake Judd and the other smaller lakes. Crews have returned to this sprinkler line to make adjustments, top up fuel tanks on pumps and to ensure they are operational.

Mount Anne area impact report

The fires in the Mount Anne area are currently relatively quiet. A Parks and Wildlife Service desktop analysis indicates the fire has predominately impacted on low fire-sensitivity vegetation such as buttongrass and scrub. Approximately 540.7 ha of very high and extreme fire-sensitivity communities, such as mixed forest, rainforest and cushion moorland, have been burnt. Most of this is forest, with only 0.7 ha of mapped cushion moorland within the fire boundary. It is important to note that this value will change and is likely to be reduced as a more accurate fire boundary becomes available. This is because areas of lower flammability vegetation will have remained unburnt within the fire scar. The iconic vegetation communities, such as the King Billy forests, Pandani Shelf and the alpine community on the Eliza plateau have not been burnt. The High Camp hut has also not burnt.

Southwest (south of Macquarie Harbour and west of Hardwood River)

The fires burning in this area include Moores Valley (30,880 ha), Mount Jean (unknown) and Dolphin Ridge (2,950 ha) fires. These fires are all largely in fire-adapted buttongrass moorlands although there are areas of wet forest and rainforest that will have been burnt around the edge of the buttongrass moorlands. There is a large stand of Huon Pine in this area and aerial reconnaissance indicates it has remained unburnt.

Southwest fires impact report

The fires in the Southwest group have not progressed for a number of days and in many places have burnt to their natural boundaries. A Parks and Wildlife Service desktop analysis indicates that a total of 2,133 ha of very high and extreme fire sensitive vegetation occurs within these fire scars. This is predominately mixed forest, which is a transition state to rainforest. As such, mixed forest consists of fire adapted vegetation with fire-sensitive components. It is important to note that this value will change and is likely to be reduced as a more accurate fire boundary becomes available and unburnt patches are eliminated from within the boundary.

Wilmot and Frankland Range

The fires in this area include Wilmot Range (105 ha), Lake Pedder (1,126 ha), Wombat Peak (245 ha) and Mount Solitary (1,371 ha). These fires have run to natural boundaries and have not spread further for some days. The values in this area are similar to the Southwest group, with the fires being largely in buttongrass moorland.

Wilmot and Frankland Range impact report

The fires in the Wilmot and Frankland Range have not progressed for a number of days and in many places have burnt to their natural boundaries. A Parks and Wildlife Service desktop analysis indicates that a total of 37.3 ha of very high fire sensitive vegetation occurs within these fire scars. Similar to the above impact reports, this value is likely to change.

Huon River area group

The fires in this area have now all joined and are part of the Riveaux Road fire (59,420 ha). The Riveaux Road fire is burning on numerous fronts, with most activity on the south-eastern as well as the northern edges, just south of the Snowy Range.

Infrared scanning of this fire on Saturday identified active fire along drier ridges of the Eastern Arthur Range. No active fire was identified at the base of Mount Bobs.

Gell River

The Gell River fire (34,338 ha) was ignited in late December by a dry lightning storm that crossed the state on the evening of 27th December 2018. The fire has burnt through the Vale of Rasselas and up into the Denison, Gordon and Tiger Ranges and is now in the Florentine Valley but remains to the west of Florentine Road. The western front of the fire has also reached Lake Gordon and is travelling back up the Denison Range towards Lake Rhona. Protection works for the western side of Lake Rhona are being implemented.

The fire has spotted over the Gordon River Road to the south and travelled up The Needles. Churchill Hut was destroyed by fire.

Parks closures have been instituted at Mount Field and sprinklers have been established around vulnerable vegetation communities on Tarn Shelf. Historic huts have been wrapped in sisailation to protect them from ember attack.

Great Pine Tier

The Great Pine Tier fire has burnt 49,803 ha and is impacting a number of Highland Lakes communities. The fire is active on numerous fronts and has burnt through dry eucalypt forest and highland heathland.

Parks and Wildlife Service are taking actions to prevent the fire spreading into the Walls of Jerusalem National Park and western lakes area. Firefighters are currently constructing a containment line, consisting of a handline and sprinklers, in the Lake Ada area. The line runs from the south west corner of Lake Augusta and passes Rocky Lagoon, Lake Ada, Bald Hill and to the Pine River. The firebreak is a combination of slashed line that follows an existing track and a section of handline.

Other fires

There are a number of other fires burning in parks and reserves outside of these areas. These include Precipitous Bluff (0.6 ha), Nevada Peak (4.4 ha), Hastings Caves (10.4 ha) and Hylands Road, Murdunna (42.8 ha), which are currently contained. Other fires include Jubilee Range (26 ha) and Rapid River (141.3 ha).

General information

The Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, along with Tasmania Fire Service, Sustainable Timber Tasmania and a number of interstate emergency service personnel, are working hard to contain all the fires across Tasmania, prevent loss of human life and property as well as minimising the damage to natural and cultural heritage and critical civil infrastructure. Interstate and international firefighters and support staff are assisting with the management of these fires.

It is important to note that the vast majority of vegetation communities affected by the bushfires are fire tolerant and depend on fires to set seed and regenerate.

New methods of fire suppression and protection have been trialled during these fires. This includes the use of aerial applied, long-term retardant, sprinkler systems and wrapping historic huts. Firefighters on the ground are also being aided by the use of foam suppressants.

The use of firefighting suppressants and retardants in the World Heritage Area has been recently examined and the potential impacts assessed. As a result, guidelines for application of these products within the World Heritage Area have been developed, with any potential impact from the chemicals weighed up against the potential threat from the fire.