The head of the Country Fire Service has warned heavy rains this week could cause “catastrophic” damage to the burnt-out environment, despite benefits to fighting the Adelaide Hills bushfire.
CFS state coordinator Brenton Eden told FIVEaa this morning heavy rains could cause too much ash and dirt to flow into South Australia’s reservoirs.
“Look, it has the potential to benefit us, it also has the benefit to do a lot of damage, like it did in Bangor,” Eden said.
“If we remember 12 months ago, that fire was extinguished by massive rain which just destroyed the landscape because we’d burnt out all the ground cover.
“… we’ve got our major reservoir and water catchment areas in this fire, if we got too much rain it would be quite catastrophic for us – we wouldn’t want that amount of ash and dirt going into our reservoirs.
“It’s one of the reasons why today we’re bringing in specialist teams from interstate to just look at the impact of rain on the landscape should we get too much.”
The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting the possibility of showers from Wednesday to Saturday.
Authorities are working to predict the potential effect of heavy rain on the state’s reservoirs.
SA Water’s Senior Manager of Network Operations, Steve Rose, said staff would be checking the amount of ash in the area that could impact the Millbrook Reservoir, as well as any potential for soil erosion.
“They will also be looking for any opportunities to install silt traps, to reduce the risk of excess ash and silt being washed into the reservoir,” he said.
Rose said heavy rains were unlikely, however, to have a significant impact on water storage levels of reservoirs, “as the catchments are currently quite dry”.
A spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources told InDaily heavy rain following a bushfire had the potential to cause serious damage.
“Debris and ash can also be washed into creeks and dams, which can become blocked,” the spokesperson said.
“Water quality can also be impacted.
“Topsoil can be washed away due to lack of vegetation cover where the fire has swept through.”
Speaking about firefighting efforts later this morning on ABC 891 Radio, Eden said despite the good luck of last night’s cooler weather, difficult challenges remained for CFS volunteers.
“Overnight (was) probably one of our best 12 hour shifts I think and that was all due to the weather – about 17 degrees overnight,” he said.
“(But) we’re not out of the woods.
“It’ll be another difficult day, but we’re preparing for what will be our most difficult day … tomorrow.
“A lot of tired and fatigued firefighters in the state at the moment.”
Eden said firefighters were determined not to let the fire front continue to advance.
“Even today we’re got concerns in the SW corner and in the very most southern point in this fire,” he said.
“… the one at the southern most point is of concern. We just do not want this fire to go any further south; it then starts to impact on a whole new scenario if it was to travel any further south.”
He said plenty of resources were being made available for the firefighting effort.
“We’ll have close to 500 firefighters on this by tomorrow to make sure that we do not see the perimeter of this fire increase,” he said.
“We are rich in aviation resources today … a total of 31, which is the largest number of aircraft which has ever been assembled for firefghting purposes in the history of South Australia.”
The latest Watch and Act message (9:59AM) for Sampson Flat says that the bushfire at Sampson Flat in the Mount Lofty Ranges near One Tree Hill, Humbug Scrub, Para Wirra Recreation Park, Mount Crawford, Kersbrook, Gumeracha, Kenton Valley, Cudlee Creek area and Inglewood may threaten your safety.
The latest warnings and incidents are on the CFS website (click here) or the CFS Facebook page (click here), and on 891 ABC Radio.
The service is warning Sampson Flat residents returning to their properties today that life-threatening hazards remain and that people must be particularly vigilant when in a tired and emotional state.
It warns of common fire ground hazards, including: falling trees and branches, falling powerlines, escaped stock and wildlife on roads, ash piles conceiling hazards and low visibility because of smoke – and physical hazards, including: slips and falls, gas cylinders, sewer and water contamination, and skin, respiratory and eye hazards from smoke and hazardous materials.
According to the CFS, people in the fire area are safest if they wear coveralls, gloves, safety boots, head protection, eye protection and a face mask (minimum of P2).
You can contact the bushfire information hotline on 1300 362 361 for further advice.
The CFS was forced to reject rumours this morning that residents of One Tree Hill, Lower Hermitage and Paracombe had been asked to restrict water use and stockpile it for CFS access.
“… this is not required and residents should use water as needed, particularly given the weather conditions over the next few days,” a statement on the CFS Facebook page says.
Asked about the fires during his visit to the United Arab Emirates today, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said disaster relief funding was available for those affected.
“The standard national disaster relief and recovery arrangements are already in place,” he said.
“We will shortly have a little bit more to say on the Centrelink payments which are often made in circumstances like these.”
“It is tragic that we’ve seen – yet again, the ferocity of Mother Nature – but the thing about Australians is that the worst in nature tends to bring out the best in us, and that’s what we always see when our emergency services rush to help people in trouble and when communities rally around those people who have lost a very great deal.”
Photo: AFP / BRENTON EDWARDS
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