Grampians fire: Minister Ryan Smith visits Halls Gap

VICTORIAN Environment Minister Ryan Smith visited Halls Gap yesterday to meet fire-fighters, Parks Victoria district manager Graham Parkes and Grampians Tourism chief executive Will Flamsteed.

Authorities declared the Grampians fire controlled on Monday after it had burnt through 55,100 hectares since it was ignited by lightning strikes on January 15.

Mr Smith praised CFA staff and volunteers for bringing the blaze under control.

"The efforts of fire-fighters in responding to the Grampians fires have been nothing short of outstanding," he said.

"They have worked countless hours in tough conditions, not just in the Grampians but also on fires in the Mallee and East Gippsland in some of the toughest terrain and most isolated areas in the state."

He encouraged tourists to visit the area to boost the district's economy. Last month he announced $250,000 for repairing damaged tourist sites.

"The majority of the Grampians National Park was not affected by the recent fires, so I urge Victorians to take the opportunity to enjoy one of our great national park experiences at a time when the community needs you most," Mr Smith said.

"The recovery process is well under way and I commend the efforts of the many volunteers who are assisting in the fire recovery process."

The minister also visited the incident control centre in Horsham for a briefing from the Department of Environment and Primary Industries.

Incident controller Russell Manning said the fire was controlled through the tireless efforts of fire crews.

"These fire-fighters have worked in very difficult terrain, and under arduous conditions, including days of extreme temperatures to control this fire," he said.

"It is rare that a fire of this size and duration is controlled without weather assistance. We did not receive any rain during the fire

campaign, and it really was the effort of the on-ground fire-fighters from the department, Parks Victoria and CFA who have eventually controlled the fire.

"Thank you also to the communities around the fire perimeter for their support and understanding during the past few weeks."

At its peak the fire had more than 500 people from the

department, Parks Victoria, CFA, local government, Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria, VicRoads, Telstra, Powercor, GWMWater, the Department of Human Services, Health Services and the State Emergency Service.

Communities in the northern Grampians were affected by the fire including Brimpaen, Laharum, Wartook, Roses Gap, St Helens Plains and Dadswells Bridge.

More than 135 structures were lost, including 32 dwellings.

The recovery centre at Laharum Hall will close tomorrow.

Fire activity in the Wyperfeld National Park has now subsided with the department releasing an all-clear message for the communities of Albacutya, Boinka, Brentwood, Hopetoun, Hopetoun West, Hopevale, Kenmare, Kurnbrunin, Linga, Nypo, Patchewollock, Pella, Pullut, Rainbow, Timberoo South, Torrita, Tutye, Underbool, Walpeup, Werrap and Yaapeet.

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