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Bushfire will smoulder until next year

Smouldering peat at Tordit-Gurrup Lagoon
Smouldering peat at Tordit-Gurrup Lagoon Tim Foley DPaW

A bushfire that started after a lightning strike near Tordit-Gurrup Lagoon, 60km east of Manjimup, is likely to smoulder for many more months – until the next significant rain event.

Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) incident controller Brian Moss said the fire was burning in peat in a remote area of Lake Muir Nature Reserve, which presented a number of challenges for fire crews.

This is a peat fire, which is a build-up of decaying plant matter that forms in wetlands, and because peat burns underground it is near impossible to extinguish,” he said.

“The difficulties we’ve experienced in this case highlight the complexities of firefighting – it’s not just about grabbing a hose or dumping water from the air.

“Our fire crews have created trenches to prevent the fire spreading and to separate the burning sections, and we used a helitac and water bombers to assist ground crews when the fire was at its most intense to ensure the area remained wet.

Mr Moss said a similar bushfire had burnt for five months from October 1987 until February 1988 in almost exactly the same area.

“We were able to apply the knowledge we gathered as a result of the 1987/88 fire, which allowed us to quickly do an assessment and make decisions on the best way to tackle the fire,” he said.

“Twenty-six years ago, fire crews were forced to build trenches by hand. This time we had the luxury of earth-moving machines but it will still take some time and we will probably need to continue monitoring the fire well into next year.”

The bushfire is now controlled and it has burnt approximately 80 hectares.

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