Bushfire - Great Divide Complex
Victoria experienced a very adverse fire season during 2006 - 2007. Lightning ignited a number of fires on 1 December 2006 and some later merged to form what is known as the 'Great Divide Complex' fires in eastern Victoria. The area burnt mostly public land and was estimated to be in the vicinity of 1.2 and 1.3 million hectares by the end of the season. On 7 February 2007, The Great Divide fires were finally contained after 69 days. There were also a number of other fires (Tawonga Gap burned 33,500 hectares and Tatong burned 33,000). Despite the severity of the fire season, housing and private asset losses were remarkably low. In total, 51 dwellings of which 21 were classified as primary residences were destroyed and hundreds of stock and farm fencing were lost in the fires. One man died in a vehicle accident while assisting a property owner to prepare for fire impact.
Thousands of community volunteers and career emergency service personnel across state, regional and community levels worked in partnership to ensure the fires were eventually brought under control. A further component to the response was the support and assistance from New Zealand, United States, Canadian and interstate colleagues.
By 7 February, more than 1400 firefighters had been injured in the fire fighting effort (including bruises, cuts, blisters, burns, dehydration, broken limbs and spider bites). More than 400 St John Ambulance volunteers, including doctors, nurses and first aid officers provided medical assistance. On 16 December, 11 New Zealand firefighters were injured while fighting the fire in the Howqua Valley in north-east Victoria.
On 16 January 2007 power lines were cut which severely disrupted Melbourne electricity supplies. On the same day, a fire threatened to close Tullamarine Airport. The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) worked with Melbourne Water to keep the fires out of the water catchments.
A significant number of people were evacuated during the fires. Relief centres were established to accommodate evacuees. Some mountain tourist complexes were evacuated due to fires including Mount Buller and Thredbo Village in New South Wales, the latter due to a fire that started from a lightning strike at Hermit Mountain and crossed the border.
Victoria experienced widespread effects from the fires. Numerous schools in the high country and some parts of Gippsland were forced to close due to the fire threat and outside play at school was banned in some instances due to smoke haze. The smoke haze reportedly caused some respiratory symptoms and aggravated conditions such as asthma. Haze also ffected traffic and delayed flights in and out of Melbourne airport. On 20 December, the Environment Protection Authority recorded its worst bushfire smoke since records began, with visibility reduced to two km in Melbourne's central business district.
During the fire season, the Country Fire Authority, Department of Sustainability and Environment and Parks Victoria received operational assistance from other states and a significant international contingent:
- ACT - 37 personnel
- NSW - 1050 personnel
- NT - 108 personnel
- SA - 10 personnel
- Qld - 14 personnel
- WA - 20 personnel
- Canada - 52 personnel
- New Zealand - 115 personnel
- USA - 114 personnel
The Victorian and Federal Government provided financial assistance to aid personal, physical and economic recovery from the fire disaster.
The Insurance Council of Australia did not report any cost for this particular fire.