'My eyes sting': Ensay fire threatens farms in eastern Victoria

'My eyes sting': Ensay fire threatens farms in eastern Victoria

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BLAZE: The Ensay Ferntree Creek fire has burned more than 40,000 hectares in eastern Victoria.

BLAZE: The Ensay Ferntree Creek fire has burned more than 40,000 hectares in eastern Victoria.

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Hereford breeder Reece Newcomen says the Ensay fire is on the boundary of his farm.

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Reece Newcomen says his eyes sting "even when I sit down inside" from billowing smoke as the Ensay Ferntree Creek fire continues to burn uncontrolled in Victoria's east.

Mr Newcomen, 57, runs a Hereford breeding operation about 10 kilometres from the Little River Inn at Ensay.

The fire is one of four blazes burning in Gippsland which have burned more than 40,000 hectares.

Mr Newcomen said the fire, which has been burning since November 21, is on his south-east to eastern boundary where his property joins native bush.

"My house is about a kilometre from the fire, maybe a bit more," Mr Newcomen said.

"The hill rises up steeply on our boundary to a range which is covered in bush and you can see the fire up there slowly working its way down like a camp fire."

IMPACTED: Hereford breeder Reece Newcomen, Ensay, says the bushfire is burning about a kilometre from his home on the boundary of his property.

IMPACTED: Hereford breeder Reece Newcomen, Ensay, says the bushfire is burning about a kilometre from his home on the boundary of his property.

Mr Newcomen was born in Ensay and runs about 250 cows and calves plus 150 heifers and said he had been constructing fire breaks on the boundary of his farm.

"It's gradually heading our way but it's got to come in on a southerly or south-easterly which is a cool breeze and they tend to be not strong for a long period of time plus it's burning downhill," he said.

"We've put a break around it in the last few days and I've got disc breaks around all my paddocks and then I've also got a dozer which I've used to push a track around the inside of my boundary with the bush.

"The [Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning] blokes are here, so are the CFA and we're sort of working on making another fall-back line now."

The fires were caused by lightning.

FROM THE AIR: A photo taken from an aircraft on Monday shows the intensity of the Ensay Ferntree Creek fire.

FROM THE AIR: A photo taken from an aircraft on Monday shows the intensity of the Ensay Ferntree Creek fire.

A breakdown of the areas burned from the four fires in Gippsland:

  • W Tree-Yalmy fire 14,667 hectares
  • Bruthen-Six Mile Track fire 10,429 hectares
  • Ensay-Fern Tree Creek fire 10,115 hectares
  • Marthavale-Barmouth Spur fire 5,510 hectares

Farming community "pulling together"

Farmers near Ensay, which is about an hour from Bairnsdale on the Great Alpine Road, have been helping one another as the fire threatens nearby properties.

"The local farming community is pretty good in these situations," Mr Newcomen said.

"As soon as the fire hits the clear country they're on it with their spray outfits and it'll take a bit of country but we're fairly confident we'll stop it.

"As long as it doesn't get to the north of us because there's bush to the north that surrounds us and if it gets into the north on a bad windy 40-degree day, nothing will stop it."

He said the area had been "blanketed in smoke" and livestock had been moved away from the fire.

"Up until the last couple of days we've sort of gone about our normal routine but now we're being a bit more proactive about getting our breaks in the right spot and getting our cattle where we want them to be and that sort of stuff," Mr Newcomen said.

Fire conditions ease: incident controller

The Ensay Ferntree Creek fire has burned more than 10,400 hectares.

Bairnsdale Incident Control Centre incident controller Brett Mitchell said hot and variable wind conditions on Monday caused the fires to act in an unpredictable manner with many spot fires occurring near the existing fires.

"We have been speaking with the communities that may be affected most by these four fires, encouraging them to be prepared," he said.

"The Ensay Ferntree Creek fire caused the most concern yesterday due to its movement and behaviour. An emergency warning was issued to the community of Reedy Flat and Holston in the afternoon.

"Efforts from ground crews and air crews, and the wind change, significantly minimised impacts on the fire east of Ensay [on Monday] night [and] the fire was downgraded from an emergency warning around 2am."

Authorities have warned the fires may take months to extinguish if the region does not receive decent rainfall in the coming weeks.

People considering visiting the area are encouraged to check and monitor the VicEmergency app or website.

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