Update on the current bush fire situation in Victoria

The author and a rescued koala.Well they say that when Queensland floods, Victoria burns; and this has sadly rung true in the past month.

While I've just witnessed first-hand the torrential rain and flooding on the Gold Coast and the Northern Rivers, my friend Denise Garratt, Director of Help for Wildlife (helpforwildlife.com) in Victoria, reports that most of the State is still on high bush fire alert, despite some welcome rain last week which dampened some spot fires, other areas of Victoria still burn ferociously.

In Gippsland, there are ongoing problems with gaining access due to affect areas, due to the unpredictability of fire behavior , and if that weren’t enough many  tracks are proving very difficult to access due to deep dust. Rescuers with WRAP (Wildlife Rescue and Protection) have been involved working to the new DSE/CFA Bushfire Protocols when areas are deemed safe.

But the area is really dangerous due to mine shafts and falling trees. Two DSE fire personnel were tragically killed when a tree fell on their vehicle last month. Early reports indicate that the Gippsland fires burnt in a mosaic pattern which provided some areas of refuge for surviving wildlife. At this stage there are minimal wildlife casualties, but large numbers of fatalities are expected due to the sheer ferocity of the fire.

Since my last blog, the fires in the Grampians have settled slightly and have been contained with back burning in progress. Reports from local residents indicate that there has been minimal structural damage to many buildings and thankfully not many cattle lost.

Again, there are few reports of affected wildlife, but DSE has been very active, seeking out affected wildlife and have put many local carers on standby should any injured animals been found.  

In Epping and Wollert, an area known for a high density of kangaroos, the grassland fires while extensive have left some areas unscathed, providing plenty of area for them to seek refuge. 

In fact due to the very few reports of injured animals and number of fire free areas, we are hopeful that much of the wildlife was able to escape. In a cruel twist, the main problem kangaroos faced when fleeing the fires were from road kill. One burned adult and one orphaned joey from a road accident are now in care at Wildhaven in St. Andrews. 

Luckily for this area, both the RSPCA and DSE gained access to the fire ground very early to provide much needed help. In a great example of team work, RSPCA officers attended to domestic animals and DSE officers attended to burned wildlife.

Many other wildlife rescuers, too many to name individually, have been providing invaluable help by providing water for affected wildlife. However, the recent rain has triggered Mother Nature to offer up fresh green grass shoots, providing much-needed nourishment for the returning kangaroos.

The fires in Harrietville and the High country are now under control, but we have very little information available on any casualties as the terrain is mostly inaccessible. There are no reports of injured wildlife but again DSE Wildlife Welfare officers are on hand to attend to fire-affected wildlife and will naturally liaise with local shelters if any injured animals are found.

The situation in Boho and Violet Town is less positive, largely due to the rugged landscape. We have had early reports that kangaroos would have had room to run from the fire, but sadly any koalas and possums would not have been able to escape.  Any wildlife that made it out of the fire zone is being cared for by a local shelter. 

The fire in Tallarook has made Mitchell totally inaccessible. The fire had to be attacked and controlled from the air. Local wildlife shelters are on the alert and in contact with DSE, when we hear more news, we’ll update you. 

Meanwhile, in Portland, the last reports from DSE were that five koalas were taken into care with the local vet and local wildlife carer taking good care of them.

Any other fire grounds not covered in our summary will be subject to the Bushfire Protocols. The DSE will have Wildlife Welfare Officers assessing all fire grounds before liaising with local wildlife shelters. 

The new Help for Wildlife Mobile Veterinary Unit and Response Personnel and IFAW veterinarians are on standby to assist. In the meantime, let’s hope Victoria gets more much-needed rain.

If people have any updates to add to this please let us know..

--JS

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