Residents return to towns ravaged by Victorian fire

Downed power lines and falling trees are the main hazards for devastated Victorians trying to return to coastal towns where a bushfire razed 116 homes.


Wye River lost 98 homes in the Christmas Day bushfire – a third of the houses in the town – while nearby Separation Creek had 18 homes destroyed.

“(We are) concentrating on the hazardous trees, and making sure we can get the roads open, the power companies able to declare the power lines all safe,” the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s Alex Shilton told reporters on Sunday.

“Our aim is to try and open it up so that it’s safe for people to get back in.”

Fallen domestic solar power lines remain a threat, while many trees are still burning and on the verge of falling over.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said residents had shown courage in the face of the bushfires.

“People were looking out for each other and there was a sense of love and care and compassion,” he told Network Seven on Sunday morning.

Those affected by the devastating Christmas Day bushfires will soon be able to access up to $1300 in emergency relief under a joint state and federal government scheme.

The Great Ocean Road’s tourism industry has also taken a hit as roads to the area remain closed and accommodation cancellations pile up.

Mr Andrews urged tourists to continue enjoying their holidays in the area, but to stay aware of conditions at all times.

“The message to tourists, to visitors, is this is a beautiful part of our state. This is pristine coastline,” he said.

“If you are aware of your circumstances … then you can still visit those areas that are open.”

Mr Shilton said firefighters will be working in the area for weeks to come.

“We’ll be going on this until there’s heavy rain and we’re confident everything’s out,” he said.

The 2200-hectare Jamieson Track fire started with a lightning strike on December 19.

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Surf Coast shire councillor Clive Goldsworthy said the Spirit Foundation was set up in 2013 to help locals in need, and it was being used to help out after the fires.

“We see this as part of Lorne community – we dodged the bullet and unfortunately Wye River and Separation Creek didn’t,” he told ABC 24.

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