From ABC News
Crews unable to slow Wilsons Promontory blaze
Posted Tue Feb 17, 2009 5:32pm AEDT
Updated Tue Feb 17, 2009 6:04pm AEDT
Victorian fire authorities are unable to slow the progress of a fire at Wilsons Promontory, south of Melbourne, as the offical death toll from the Victorian bushfires rises to 200.
Investigators have confirmed a further 11 people died in fires around the town of Kinglake.
The Wilsons Promontory fire is putting up a huge plume of smoke, dominating the sky, and it is visible across Corner Inlet to Welshpool.
The fire has burnt across the national park, from east to west, driven by winds up to 70 kilometres an hour.
Fire authorities say the fire is almost impossible to control and has now cut off the main entrance to Wilsons Promontory.
It has grown by 2,000 hectares to 11,000 in the last few hours, and crossed the road about 4:00pm AEDT.
Heavy winds have grounded water-bombing aircraft, and the park's airstrip has now gone up in flames.
The wind speed and intensity of the blaze has forced ground crews to withdraw from the main fire front.
Crews have had to withdraw today because of the intensity of the blaze, and the tough terrain.
Authorities are reassuring the community of Yanakie, north of the national park, they are safe for now.
Incident Controller Denis Mathews says although the fire could move north towards Yanakie, the community is not yet under threat.
"The winds are very, very powerful down here - they're gusting up to 60, 70-kilometre easterlys, east-north easterly," he said.
"Because they are so strong we've had to pull our resources out of the area, those that were in the face of that fire, we've pulled them back to either side, hopefully we'll be able to treat it and hold it."
Mr Mathews says the northern edge is not the only fire front causing major concerns.
"We need to impact the possible impact of fire further south down onto tidal river, that comes with this spotting," he said.
In contrast, control lines have been re-established around the Kilmore East-Murrinindi fire after it pushed towards Healesville this morning.
The blaze moved to within a few kilometres of Healesville and the town of Badger's Creek.
CFA Operations Manager David Harrison says the weather conditions are helping crews contain the blaze.
"We're not getting those hot dry north winds which we really don't want at the minute," he said.
"So anything from the south south-east, the south-west that seems to be helping us at the minute by pushing the smoke back away from where we're trying to work and we can continue on with those containment lines."