Tourism campaign for Victoria’s fire-affected regions
The Victorian government is trying to encourage tourists to return to fire-affected areas in East Gippsland and the alpine region with a new campaign through Visit Victoria.
The slogan for the campaign is “a short visit goes a long way”.
The Princes Highway remains closed east of Orbost due to the bushfires, although some stretches are open to residents.
But tourism minister Martin Pakula, who visited the Gippsland Lakes region yesterday, said towns like Lakes Entrance, Metung, and Paynesville, as well as high country areas like Bright, Beechworth, Rutherglen and Mansfield, were open for visitors.
The most practical thing that ordinary Victorians can do right now to help these regions is to travel there and spend money there.
It will not only create amazing memories for families and kids, it will also provide vital support to our bushfire-affected communities as they recover and rebuild.
Pakula said the Andrews government would give Destination Gippsland and Tourism North East $200,000 each to pay a staff member to work directly with fire-affected tourism operators and develop campaigns to encourage visitors to return.
Cricket Australia and the Victorian Trades Hall Council are also going to hold away days in fire-affected areas, and other 115 other businesses and government agencies have pledged to do the same. More on that pledge here.
at 7.35pm EST
Unions NSW has again reminded workers in NSW that it is illegal to be forced to work when the air quality is at hazardous levels.
Here’s the statement from Unions NSW secretary, Mark Morey:
When the air quality is hazardous it is not safe to work outdoors for extended periods. You have a right to stop work if it is unsafe. It is illegal for your employer to force you to work in hazardous air.
The air quality crisis has been ongoing since mid-November. This means workers, particularly those who work outside, have had ongoing exposure, which could have an impact on their health.
Those with existing conditions such as asthma, emphysema and heart problems are particularly vulnerable.
Morey says the NSW government should lead the way for other businesses by restricting outdoor work by its employees to essential services and emergency work.
It has also called for workplace health and safety standards to be updated “to reflect our changing climate.”
New regulations informed by the advice of occupational health and safety authorities, lung health experts, business, and union representatives are needed urgently.
Photographer Mike Bowers was at the Potato Point fire on the NSW south coast yesterday. He spotted this fire truck from the Horsley Park volunteer RFS brigade, painted in memory of their fellow volunteer, Geoffrey Keaton, who died fighting fires southwest of Sydney in December.
The Horsley Park RFS crew were helping to defend homes at Potato Point.
The fire that flared near Canberra airport yesterday and threatened homes near the Molongo River is currently burning at an advice level.
The 379ha fire is behind containment lines, but smoke from the fire — particularly from a recycling centre on Underwood Street, Beard, which caught alight yesterday and began emitting dangerous smoke — remains a hazard.
Oaks Estate Road remains closed between Pialligo Avenue and Railway Street.
at 6.41pm EST
C-130 firefighting aircraft temporarily grounded in Australia following fatal crash
All C-130 firefighting aircraft in Australia have been grounded until further notice, the National Council for Fire and Emergency Services (Afac) and national aerial fire fighting centre (Nfac) have said.
The planes were grounded following the crash of the Lockheed C-130Q Hercules air tanker in the Snowy Mountains yesterday afternoon. The cause of that crash is not yet known.
The aerial tanker was one of 160 aircraft operating as part of the aerial bushfire fleet in Australia this bushfire season.
RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told the ABC this morning that C-130 planes are particularly useful on firegrounds because they can carry 15,000L of water, usually mixed with fire retardant. That’s why photos of the C-130 planes in action often show them dumping a bright red spray.
That’s close to five times the capacity of the RFS’s normal fixed-wing water-bombers.
They can be anywhere in New South Wales within an hour and seamlessly integrate into local firefighting operations given the progression and advancement of aviation management in support of crews on the ground.
It is a capability that we have become very accustomed to over recent years and it has provided valuable support to firefighters on the ground but also the people, the families, the communities that we are all trying to save and protect.
Whether it is building retardant lines to limit the spread of fire or having a tremendous knock-down affect on fire spread and flanks of fires, they have been there and in among it right throughout the fire seasons in the last five years.
Fitzimmons said it was “inappropriate and dangerous to speculate” on the cause of the crash, but that “field reports indicated that there was a pretty significant fireball associated with the plane crash.”
In a statement issued late yesterday, Afac CEO Stuart Ellis said they were “deeply saddened and shocked by the news.”
Such a tragedy highlights the challenging conditions for all aerial firefighting pilots and our respect and gratitude rests with all pilots who are flying supporting ground operations across Australia
Nfac general manager Richard Alder said Coulson Aviation was a “very well-respected aviation company. Our thoughts are with the families of the crew, Coulson Aviation and all our aerial firefighting colleagues during this difficult time.”
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Australian and US firefighters working on the East Gippsland fires held a minute’s silence for the three aerial firefighters killed yesterday.
‘Unlikely’ gold miner trapped in Tasmania has survived
Moving away from the bushfires briefly to the west coast of Tasmania, where police have said this morning that it is “highly unlikely” that a worker trapped in a collapse at Henty Gold Mine has survived.
Tasmania police issued this statement this morning:
Overnight the search utilised an additional drone with more sensitive three-dimensional laser technology as part of the operation to locate the missing mine worker.
The amount of earth and rock and the situation that presents tells us that it is highly unlikely he could have survived.
This is very sad for all his family and loved ones and the West Coast community and our thoughts are with them.
We will continue to work with the mine on the recovery operation which is likely to take some time but it’s not possible to say how long.
The man lived in the area and had been working at the mine for about two years, according to reports.
His shift began at 7pm on Wednesday and was due to finish at 7am yesterday. Colleagues went looking for him when they lost contact early Thursday morning and found that a section of mine he had been working in, which was a 20-minute descent underground, had collapsed.
at 6.12pm EST
The funeral of father and son Robert and Patrick Salway, who died trying to protect their farm in the south coast town of Cobargo, is being held today but because of damage from yesterday’s fires a lot of mourners can’t get through.
I’m at a road block on the Princes Highway bear Tuross Head – about 70km north of Cobargo – where there’s a long queue of mourners who are desperately trying to find out when the road will reopen. Family members are being let through.
The funeral is being held at the cemetery and people in the town were expecting hundreds – not thousands – from the surrounding districts to attend.
at 6.09pm EST
Extreme fire conditions are forecast for the Gascoyne Coast in Western Australia today. That’s a thin strip of land starting just north Kalbarri and running up to the Exmouth Gulf.
The central coast, around Geraldton, has severe fire danger, and the fire danger of the surrounding area is very high.