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Golden girl's 42km challenge

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 12 Januari 2013 | 19.55

HURRICANE Sandy did what most athletes have failed to do -- stop Olympic gold medallist Cathy Freeman in her tracks.

The Sydney Olympics 400m champion was scheduled to run her first marathon in New York in November but was forced to halt her debut when the Big Apple was hit by big trouble, courtesy of the massive storm.

Now Freeman, who turns 40 next month, will run the 42km for the first time at tomorrow's Cadbury Marathon.

The gruelling slog will be a far cry from her dash of less than 50 seconds on that famous September night in Sydney in 2000.

This time Freeman will not be alone.

Step by step, pounding the pavement for hour on end, Freeman will be slogging it out alongside a record 400 field, including runners from near and far afield.

And that's just over the full distance, with 2100 to tackle the event -- from the junior 1km race, the 5km, 21.1km half marathon and the full 42.2km distance.

At least the weather is to be on side tomorrow, with a forecast of cloudy skies overhead and a top of 22C to make ideal running conditions.

In the big one, Hobart's Hanny Allston holds the female record on the current course, completing the wearing event in 2hr 46min and 27sec in 2007, while the ACT's Scott McTaggart set the men's record of 2hr 23min 39sec in 2010.

At the pointy end of the field, Canberra's Matthew French, Barry Keem and Melbourne-based Ethiopian Asheber Germa are expected to battle it out fiercely for victory.

With Tasmania having seen the devastating effect of Mother Nature first hand in the past week, it is sincerely hoped a natural disaster or weather does not foil Freeman's run again.

But even with the focus on the fun run, the recent crisis has not been forgotten with the Cadbury Marathon also supporting the Tasmanian Bushfire Appeal.

All entry money for the junior 1km event will be donated to the appeal, along with money raised by participants through GoFundraise activities.

Race times: Marathon 6am. Half marathon 7am. 5km race 9am. Junior 1km 10am.

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Behold, bloomin' beauties

IN among tree-lined streets and leafy gardens, the community of Claremont was last night putting the finishing touches ahead of this weekend's 21st Lily and Summer Flower Show.

Between 100 and 130 exhibitors from around the state are expected to display their colourful blooms at the Claremont Memorial Hall today and tomorrow.

Gardening Australia presenter Tino Carnevale will officially open the event at 2pm today.

Show secretary Ian Norman said organisers were expecting up to 2000 people to come and see the different varieties of lilies and summer flowers, including dahlias, roses, perennials and annuals.

"I would say it's about the largest community event in Claremont," he said.

Show manager Ilona Jacobson said many community groups were involved, including the Clarence, Glenorchy and Lenah Valley garden clubs and the Mount Fawkner Rovers.

The Claremont Anglican Church is providing refreshments, with all proceeds going to the Red Cross Tasmanian Bushfires Appeal.

Ms Jacobson said the family-friendly event attracted visitors from interstate and overseas.

"We're getting more popular as people come from many places to see our show," she said.

Barry and Lorraine Davidson have been exhibiting at the summer show since its inception.

Their Claremont garden features almost an acre of winding stone paths, leafy magnolia trees, rhododendrons and lilies.

They also have hundreds of orchid varieties, mainly hybrids of Australian natives.

"The flower show is a community thing, and there is still the old core community in Claremont," Mr Davidson said.

"Everyone pitches in to help," Mrs Davidson added.

Claremont Garden Club members Wilma McTye and Suzanne Robinson have been exhibiting for about 20 years.

"It's always hectic but it's fun," Mrs Robinson said.

Despite damage by the recent wind and scorching temperatures, she was still planning on being part of this year's show.

"I'll have some succulents and hopefully liliums," she said.

She said the show was also trying to attract a younger generation of gardeners.

"We have quite a few children entering the children's section, which is wonderful to see." Fellow gardener Wilma McTye said all the preparation paid off.

"It's a lot of work in the build-up, but it does bring the community together, and we have such a lot of visitors and they're always overwhelmed by how much people can grow," she said.

Avid gardener and event supporter Rod Barwick, whose specialty is trumpets crossed with oriental lilies, described the show as a "feel-good event".

"You see heaps of people smiling, enthusiastic, and there's great goodwill among all the people there," he said.

For more show details go to www.tasblooms.com/claremontflshow.

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Festival expects lots of folk

Nardi Simpson and Kaleena Briggs of the Stiff Gins.

THE tiny town of Cygnet will come alive today as thousands of music fans roll in for the 31st annual Cygnet Folk Festival.

More than 110 acts are set to perform during the weekend of the festival, a timely distraction for Tasmanians left tired and traumatised by bushfires this week.

Festival artistic director Erin Collins is expecting record crowds in excess of 6000, with pre-sale tickets well up on last year and commercial accommodation booked out months ago, although some campsites are still available.

"We're hoping that people will want a little break from all the dramas that have been going on and will come down and enjoy themselves," she said.

This year's program has a strong indigenous element, with highlights to include performances by "the voice of the Australian desert", multilingual singer and guitarist Frank Yamma, and the female duo Stiff Gins (Nardi Simpson and Kaleena Briggs).

Festival organisers have also joined the fundraising effort to support people affected by the bushfires.

Patrons will be able to make contributions at several concerts, and musicians have donated items for a music lovers' raffle.

Money raised at tomorrow night's Festival Cabaret concert at Carmel Hall was originally to be donated to the Mines Victims and Clearance Trust but the trust has asked that the money go to bushfire victims instead.


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Dogged devotion to hero dad

Written By miftah nugraha on Jumat, 11 Januari 2013 | 19.55

A HEARTWARMING photo of a Dunalley firefighter returning home to his dogs after several days on the firefront has gone viral on the internet.

Cute canines Bindi and Maddy couldn't hide their excitement as Kevin Daly, a 56-year-old paramedic who is also a volunteer firefighter, came home for a well-earned rest on Tuesday.

The dogs clambered all over Mr Daly, who was still dressed in his smoke-soiled yellow overalls. Daughter Jessie Daly was so moved that she used her camera phone to capture the moment.

At the suggestion of friends, she later shared the photo on the Mercury's Facebook page.

Within hours the image went viral -- it already has about 58,000 likes, has been shared by 4500 people and attracted oodles of online comments.

The 26-year-old, who lives in South Launceston but visits Dunalley regularly, is thrilled that her photo -- which marked a happy ending to an emotionally charged few days for the family -- has provided a feel-good moment for tens of thousands of people around the world during a devastating time.

Mr Daly began fighting fires at Forcett last Thursday. By early afternoon last Friday, the threat to Dunalley -- where he has lived his entire life -- was apparent.

While he continued to battle the intense blaze, which wiped out at least 65 buildings in the small seaside town, Mr Daly's wife Carolyn, along with Jessie and the dogs, jumped in the car and headed for the safety of Nubeena.

The power was out in Dunalley and the sky had turned a frightening shade of orange.

"Dad rang and said they had completely lost control of [the fire], that it was coming down the hill like and steam train and that we needed to get out," Ms Daly said.

They spent a worrying night on the football oval, unsure if Mr Daly and other family members were safe, before eventually securing a spot on a ferry to Hobart.

The women were reunited with Mr Daly briefly on Sunday but it wasn't until Tuesday that he was able to clock-off from firefighting duties and go home to his family for a well-earned rest. This was when the photo was taken.

Fire burned up to the boundary of the Daly property, destroying a shed, but the family home was saved.

"The stories I have heard about my father and the lengths he went to on Friday to try to save his town are truly amazing," Ms Daly said.

"I am so proud to be his daughter.

"He has always been a hero in my eyes but now he truly stands a real hero."

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Man dies in ultralight crash

A PILOT has been killed in an ultralight aircraft crash on a West Tamar property, just north of Launceston.

Police are investigating the incident, which happened in Bowens Rd, York Town, just after 10am today.

Recreational Aviation Australia state treasurer Eugene Reid told the Mercury the pilot -- who was the sole occupant of the aircraft -- had been killed in the crash.

Police said the 65-year-old man had taken off from a neighbouring property before the accident happened.

The plane came down on a vineyard a short distance away.

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Firie hurt in Derwent Valley

A FIREFIGHTER has been injured while battling a blaze in Tasmania's Derwent Valley.

The Forestry Tasmania worker injured an arm and shoulder while fighting a fire which continues to burn near Lake Repulse.

An FT spokesman today said it appeared the man had stumbled on steep ground and had fallen.

He has been evacuated from the area and taken for medical treatment.

Meanwhile, in the state's south-east, residents have finally started flooding back into the Tasman Peninsula.

The area has been off-limits for a week as firefighters battled a devastating blaze that started in Forcett and ripped through Copping and Dunalley on its march on to the peninsula. 

Tasmania Police began allowing vehicles through to the Arthur Highway past the Sugarloaf Rd turn-off about 10am today.

Officers were busy checking that those allowed through were genuine peninsula residents, property owners or business operators.

They also handed out personal protective equipment packs to protect against possible hazards.

Tasmania Police Commander Peter Edwards, chair of the Southern Regional Emergency Management Committee, said there would be a natural temptation for those returning to start cleaning up their homes.

"We understand that people will want to save special momentos and other belongings but urge them to be cautious due to several public safety hazards," Mr Edwards said in a statement.

"For example, we discourage people from disturbing ash and dust due to asbestos risk."

The Arthur Highway is expected to be re-opened to all traffic on Monday.

A bus will leave Hobart tomorrow morning for residents of the Tasman Peninsula who need to return to Nubeena to collect their vehicles.

The bus will depart from Hobart at 9am from outside the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Campbell St before stopping opposite the Sorell Police Station.

Residents need to register for the bus by calling 6265 4955 before 4pm today or between 8am and 9am tomorrow.

The bus will be able to stop on the Arthur Highway on request for residents who have unattended vehicles at locations other than Nubeena.

People keen to receive regular email updates on the bushfire recovery process can click here.

-- with AAP

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Royals give to fire appeal

Written By miftah nugraha on Kamis, 10 Januari 2013 | 19.55

PRINCE Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, have donated to the Tasmanian Bushfires Appeal as a number of large fires continue to burn in the state.

The Red Cross Tasmania Bushfires Appeal is nearing $2 million, including what the organisation described as a significant donation from the Prince of Wales.

Charles and Camilla made a five-hour stopover in the island state in November as part of their tour to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations last year.

The Prince of Wales and the Queen have both sent messages of support to those affected by the fires, which have destroyed or damaged 130 properties and burnt 110,000ha since last Thursday.

A number of large bushfires continue to burn, but most of the state's 30 blazes were downgraded last night.

A watch and act alert remains in place for the 22,800ha fire between Forcett and the Tasman Peninsula in the state's south-east.

Tasmania Fire Service station Paul Symington said advice alerts were in place for eight other fires, with Forcett the major concern today.

He said firefighters were working to deepen containment lines amid better weather conditions today ahead of a hot day expected tomorrow.

Residents in affected areas should remain vigilant.

"Even though conditions at the moment have calmed down a little bit, that doesn't mean that people can become complacent," Mr Symington said.

"They still need to be vigilant, still monitor the websites and the radios. If things do change, they need to be on top of it."

With the Forcett fire, people in the Kellevie, Bream Creek, Eaglehawk Neck, Pirates Bay, Doo Town, Old Jetty Road and Blowhole Road areas are advised to remain vigilant to changing weather conditions.

Premier Lara Giddings announced details of a bushfire recovery task force today, headed by former University of Tasmania chancellor Damian Bugg, QC.

Red Cross Tasmania executive director Ian Burke said support for the appeal had been overwhelming with contributions from individuals, families, state governments, community groups and corporations.

Mr Burke said the Red Cross was working with the Tasmanian Government to establish an independent committee to oversee the distribution of funds.

Temperatures are forecast to be in the high 20s in much of Tasmania tomorrow, with Hobart to reach 28C and Richmond 29C.


The fires have destroyed or damaged 130 properties and burnt 110,000 hectares since last Thursday

The 22,800ha Forcett fire remains a major concern

The TFS says it's responded to 197 vegetation fires since January 2

Personnel working on the fires: Tasmania Fire Service -- 300 career firefighters; TFS volunteers -- 1500-2000, 100 personnel staff; Forestry Tasmania -- 120 personnel; Parks and Wildlife Service -- 158; 75 interstate personnel; 13 from New Zealand

30 pieces of machinery

24 helicopters

627 alerts and warnings have been sent out since last Thursday

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Sam Simon steams south

The SSS Sam Simon leaving Hobart for the Southern Ocean to pursue the Japanese whaling fleet. Picture: ROGER LOVELL

THE newest ship in the anti-whaling Sea Shepherd fleet has left Hobart, bound for battle in the Southern Ocean.

Former Australian Greens leader and recently appointed Sea Shepherd director Bob Brown waved the SSS Simon goodbye at Macquarie Wharf this morning.

Tasked with leading the anti-whaling organisation's Zero Tolerance operation against Japanese whaling, Dr Brown said he had told the crew the whole of Australia thanked them for their mission.

"They are going down to uphold the law -- they are friends of the whales," Dr Brown said.

"The Japanese whaling fleet are across the equator, heading south to illegally kill whales in a global whale sanctuary."

Dr Brown is directing this season's Antarctic whale defence campaign after his long-time friend and Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson stepped down from the role because of international legal action against him.

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Bugg head of recovery team

FORMER University of Tasmania chancellor Damian Bugg will chair the State Government's Bushfire Recovery Taskforce.

Premier Lara Giddings said she approached the former Commonwealth and Tasmanian director of public prosecutions to chair the group that would be solely focused on the job of rebuilding Tasmania's bushfire-hit communities.

"The job of this taskforce is critical to rebuilding our stricken communities," she said in a statement today.

"The devastation we have witnessed in the past week is plain for everyone to see -- the toll it has taken on communities is even more so.

"But we will leave no stone unturned in helping these areas to recover, and this taskforce will have the responsibility for that.

Mr Bugg, QC, will be joined by Blundstone's CEO Steve Gunn, Local Government Association of Tasmania president and West Tamar Mayor Barry Easther, Red Cross state director Ian Burke, Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers CEO Jan Davis, Tasmania Police Commissioner Darren Hine, and Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Rhys Edwards.

Senior public servant Michael Stevens has been appointed as Bushfire Recovery Co-ordinator.

Ms Giddings said the taskforce would not act as a formal inquiry into the bushfires.

An inquiry is expected, however, once the job of fighting the latest fires in completed.

Mr Bugg said he would be seeking advice from people in the ACT and Victoria to help determine the best way to tackle the large task ahead of the new group.

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Tassie's horde of helpers

Written By miftah nugraha on Rabu, 09 Januari 2013 | 19.55

For more video coverage of the fires, click on the "Video" link in the top menu.

EVEN as efforts to extinguish Tasmania's devastating bushfires continue an army of volunteers has been mobilised to look after the needs of those affected by the crisis.

Up and down the worst-hit area, in the state's south-east, people have turned out to give what they can to help ease the pain.

A pony club ground in Sorell has become a clearing house for fodder and first-aid supplies for livestock and pets.

Trucks and utes piled high with much-needed goods today drove to and from places such as Connellys Marsh, Forcett, and points further down the Arthur Highway.

Organisers said they were keen to get hold of more square bales of hay and pre-paid fuel cards to keep the trucks rolling as well as fencing supplies to help contain wandering stock.

Depots have been set up at Gretna and at Pembroke Park in Sorell, where donations can be made.

Emma Pearce, of Forcett, said she was happy to do what she could to help others.

"We got out of the danger zone ourselves so we are just helping everyone else," she said.

"It's been a very hectic five days."

At the Old Murdunna Post Office, Rainer Minty was presiding over a shop with a difference – there was not a single price-tag on any of his goods.

Mr Minty said people had been bringing in necessities during the past few days and demand had been strong.

"The response has been fantastic," he said.

"The hay appears continuously, the supplies come in continuously.

"People come in tinnies and in runabouts.

"It has been great. I am just glad I can give something back."

He said the items most in need in his area were lantern batteries, butane stove cartridges, candles, bottled water and torches.

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Free house for fire victims

Tasmanian artist Sarah King is offering to share her country home with victims of the Tasmanian bushfires who need emergency housing. Pictures: Supplied

IMAGINE losing your home, your belongings and your memories in a devastating bushfire.

Then imagine being given the chance to recuperate on an idyllic country property with animals, an organic garden with a pond and 1.2 acres to roam.

Among the offers of help for those left devastated by the Tasmanian bushfires, artist and pensioner Sarah King, 66, has offered to share her farm house for as long as it takes a family to rebuild their own home.

Prompted by her own experiences of homelessness and a desire to share her beautiful home, Ms King said she had opened her house to strangers many times over the past 18 years, and said all she wanted was to offer a chance at happiness.

"What I want to offer is a chance to start again," she said.

"I have been homeless, and I will accept anyone as they are, as long as they accept me as I am.

"I would like this to be a starting place for people – it's just somebody offering their beautiful home to share, a wonderful life in the country that is really healthy."

Ms King's generous offer has already been shared by almost 50,000 Facebook users, where she posted her offer in a group dedicated to helping fire victims, Tassie Fires - We Can Help.

Ms King has registered her home with the Tasmanian Government as emergency housing.

Tasmanian Human Services Minister Cassy O'Connor said in a statement that more than 300 people had already received emergency housing.

"The level of community support for those who have either lost their homes or have been displaced by the fires is truly inspiring, and a reminder to us all what a generous and resilient people Tasmanians are," she said.

Read more at news.com.au

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Cool change major blessing

COOLER conditions statewide have helped fire crews finally make headway on most blazes burning across Tasmania for almost a week.

A Tasmania Fire Service spokesman today said the battle appeared to have been won south of Bicheno, where a wildfire that started on Friday has finally been contained.

"Fire crews will be on site for some time conducting backburning to keep the fire inside containment lines," a TFS spokesman said.

"But the fire is no longer posing a threat to the surrounding communities."

The 5000ha bushfire, believed to have been sparked by lightning, razed five houses at Half Moon Bay on Saturday night, and forced police to close the Tasman Highway at the Coles Bay turn-off on Sunday.

The blaze at Forcett -- which ripped through Copping and Dunalley last Friday and on to the Tasman Peninsula -- remains the worst of the fires still burning.

It has covered more than 22,0000ha and is still burning in difficult terrain behind Kellevie, near Copping.

"Crews are on site mapping the fire and throwing resources at it while we've got the chance due to the better weather conditions today," the spokesman said.

"Today's pretty much our only chance because the forecast is for temperatures to rise again tomorrow and reach 28 degrees by Friday."

The fire was being fought on all sides today by crews aided by 24 trucks, smaller fire vehicles, a helicopter and a personnel carrier.

"We need to get this one out," the spokesman said.

Residents of Kellevie, Bream Creek, Eaglehawk Neck, Pirates Bay, Doo Town, Old Jetty Rd and Blowhole Rd areas are advised to remain vigilant and keep a close watch on changing weather conditions in coming days.

A fire at Montumana, on the North-West Coast, forced the closure of part of the Bass Highway on Tuesday night and remains a serious threat, with 70 ground crews on site this afternoon.

In northern Tasmania, fires are burning at:

Barton Rd, Epping Forest,

Woorak Rd, Epping Forest

Bridport Rd, Curries River

Bull Bottom, Mathinna

Rossarden Rd, Rossarden

Davis Gully, Four Mile Creek.

A large bushfire at Lake Repulse, in the Upper Derwent Valley, is still burning out of control, but the TFS effort has now been boosted by the arrival of a New Zealand contingent.

For the latest fire updates, click here and tune in to ABC Local Radio.

  • Join us at 11am tomorrow (Thursday) for a live chat with TFS community fire safety director Damien Killalea.


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Power could flow within days

Written By miftah nugraha on Selasa, 08 Januari 2013 | 19.55

POWER may be restored to some Tasman Peninsula homes as early as this week.

Aurora Energy CEO Peter Davis said mobile generators would be used to restore power to more than 2000 customers on the Tasman Peninsula south of and including Eaglehawk Neck.

"This is the first time we've used this technology in Tasmania and it will allow electricity to start flowing on that main loop," he said.

But he said it would be some weeks before customers north of Eaglehawk Neck had power restored because of the damage to both main feeder lines.

More than 150 Aurora workers and contractors are working to restore one main feeder line.

Five Aurora crews are also working with fire crews to help restore mobile communication networks at Lake Repulse.

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Truck convoy to deliver hay

A NORTHERN transport company is delivering 700 large bales of hay to Dunalley for livestock affected by bushfire.

The first vehicle of Carrick-based Page Transport's truck convoy left Westbury at 2pm. Each truck will carry about 50 bales.

The Rotary Club of Westbury is co-ordinating the feed collection in the north and Peter Greenham, managing director of prime meat processor Greenham's Tasmania, donated $10,000 to help offset transport costs.

Elders Launceston livestock agent Stephen Caswell said proceeds from a pen of lambs from the Weymouth lamb sale tomorrow will be donated to the fire appeal.

Thousands of hectares of farmland has been burnt and replacing fencing to contain stock is another major headache for properties owners.

Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania president Paul Grubb and business operations manager Scott Woodham have opened an appeal for donations of fencing equipment.

The Royal Showgrounds at Glenorchy is also a new-age Noah's Ark acting as a refuge for livestock and a hub for donations of non-perishable animal foods.

Last night four car and 4WD loads of pet food were shipped from the Showground to the Tasman Peninsula by boats.

"If any businesses or farmers feel they can offer materials to rebuild fencing, we'll gladly take them at the Hobart Showground and organise distribution," Mr Woodham said.

Donated food stocks and other items are arriving at the showground every few minutes today, from individuals and businesses across the state.

Animals are being brought in one by one, but the numbers requiring shelter will swell as access to properties become available.

RAST is also offering free camping on 17ha grounds for people who have fled their homes.

The Art Pavilion at the Showgrounds is a clothing collection point for St Vincent de Paul.

RAST has received feed for sheep, cattle, dogs, cats, goats, cavie (guinea pigs), rabbits, birds, poultry and pigs.

"We are co-ordinating the effort to maximise the effort," Mr Woodham said.

"Most farm animals are still stuck on properties with fences burned down, but people can't access them. We will talk with local councils to arrange transport to feed animals or to collect animals."

He said Bunnings, the Huonville stores of Animal Tucker Box, and Pets Domain are also collection points.

People wanting to help with transport can phone 6272 6812 or drop off items at the Showgrounds administration building located at the top of the main drive. Entry is off Howard Rd.

The RSPCA has set up a community register to connect people in need with those who can help with temporary pet accommodation or horse or livestock agistment.

RSPCA has also launched a Tasmanian Bush Fire Appeal. Further details at www.rspca.org.au, email rspca@rspcatas.org.au or phone 6244 3033.

The Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is also offering help for any injured wildlife and can be contacted on 6268 1184.

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New chance to leave Taranna

A CONVOY is being arranged later this afternoon for anyone keen to leave the Tasman Peninsula in their vehicle.

The convoy, escorted by Tasmania Police, will depart from the intersection of the Arthur Highway and Nubeena Rd, at Taranna, at 6pm.

Anyone intending to join the convoy must arrive at the departure point in plenty of time to register with police.

A mass exodus planned for earlier today was suspended when fires flared up around the Eaglehawk Neck, Kellevie and Bream Creek areas.

The fire threat has since subsided.

The 6pm convoy is also dependent on safety conditions at the time.

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Recovery effort on in earnest

Written By miftah nugraha on Senin, 07 Januari 2013 | 19.55

Aurora crews working to restore power after the Lake Repulse fire. Pictures: SAM ROSEWARNE

RECOVERY efforts have started in and around Ellendale as a large bushfire continues to rage in rugged and inaccessible country.

There was no immediate threat to property today from the blaze, which has ripped through about 15,000ha of the Upper Derwent Valley

Scores of workers have moved in to help clear roads, restore power and return a semblance of normality to the area -- even as thick smoke hangs in the air and the fire threat continues.

Police, firefighters, council workers, Aurora staff, Forestry Tasmania personnel, private contractors and volunteers all worked through what was for many their fourth long day in the field.

Aurora staff said they expected to be working 12-hour days for weeks or even months ahead to reconnect power to all customers hit by the fires.

Manning a water tank on a remote forest track, tree feller Robert Firne said the two fires which swept around him on Friday had been an unnerving experience.

"Both of them went past us at the same time -- one of the left side and one on the right -- with about 250m between them," he said.

"It was all over in less than two minutes.

"It was that smoky you couldn't see the front of the car and that hot you couldn't look at it. It wasn't nice."

Active firefighting is expected to continue in the area for many more days. The recovery effort near Ellendale, and around the state, will take much longer.

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Water warnings issued

PUBLIC health authorities have issued a warning about using tank water in bushfire-hit areas.

Public Health director Roscoe Taylor said people returning to such areas should take some simple precautions.

"Residents can take steps to ensure the quality of their water after bushfires, which can generate large amounts of ash and debris and contaminate rainwater supplies," Dr Taylor said.

"The presence of ash and debris in rainwater does not represent a health risk but it can affect colour, clarity and taste.

"There may be other contaminants to deal with, including from dead animals or trace chemical residues from burnt treated timber."

Dr Taylor said a few simple steps could ensure rainwater supplies were suitable for drinking after a bushfire. For more information and advice, click here.

For advice on welfare issues for livestock or wildlife following the bushfires, click here.

For more information on the fire situation and support services, contact 1800 567 567.

Southern Water has also reminded customers to observe water restrictions and avoid all non-essential water use tomorrow, when a total fire ban for southern Tasmania will be in effect. At this stage, the ban will be in place until 11.59pm tomorrow.

Southern Water spokesman Ian Dunbabin said water restrictions on total fire ban days meant customers should:

  • Turn off all sprinkler systems, including automatic sprinkler systems.
  • Restrict hose use to essential purposes such as fire prevention or mitigation.
  • Use a bucket if it is necessary to water plants, clean windows, or wash driveways.

"Customers are not asked to forego water for essential purposes, but watering gardens or lawns should be deferred until the total fire ban is removed," Mr Dunbabin said

For more information on water restrictions, click here.

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Rental car reprieve

CAR rental companies Avis and Europcar have confirmed they will not charge people for the cost of recovering hire vehicles abandoned in fire-affected areas.

Avis Australia posted on its Facebook page that customers forced to leave their cars in the Port Arthur area because of the bushfires would only be charged up until the evening of Friday, January 4.

"Avis will be absorbing the costs of trucking the vehicles out of Port Arthur and the lost rental revenue," it said.

Europcar also announced that customers would not be charged for lost rental revenue or vehicle recovery costs.

Europcar Tasmania managing director Brendon Ayers said customers would only be charged for their vehicle rental until the time they informed the company they would not be able to return it, regardless of the length their original booking.

Tourism Industry Council Tasmania CEO Luke Martin said he had been advised by Tasmania's five largest hire car companies -- AVIS, Budget, Thrifty, Europcar and Red Spot -- that no customer who abandoned their vehicle because of the fires would be charged penalty rates for not returning it.

Several evacuees spoken to by the Mercury at Nubeena on Sunday said the only reason they were unable to leave the town was they were being threatened with open-ended charges if they did not return their cars to the designated drop-off location.

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Royals' messages of support

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 06 Januari 2013 | 19.55

THE Queen has sent a message of support for those affected by the Tasmanian bushfires.

"I would like to convey my deep concern for all those who have been affected by the devastating bushfires that have caused widespread destruction across Tasmania," Her Majesty said in a statement.

"I send my sympathy to those people who have lost their homes or livelihoods in the fires, and offer my support and admiration for the fire fighters, volunteers and emergency services officers who have been working tirelessly to contain the situation."

Prince Charles also sent a personal message of support.

"Having visited Tasmania so recently, and retaining countless fond and happy memories of all those we met, my wife and I were profoundly saddened to hear of the appalling bushfires which have caused such dreadful damage and despair across the island," His Royal Highness said.

"However inadequate these sentiments may be under such awful circumstances, we wanted you to know that our hearts go out to all those whose lives, properties and businesses have been affected by those terrible fires. Our special thoughts and prayers are with them at such a desperate time."

Tasmanian Governor Peter Underwood said his thoughts and those of his wife were with the thousands of people affected.

"Many of you are no doubt still in a state of shock, trying to come to terms with the loss, in a single stroke, of your home, your possessions and, in some cases, your livelihood," he said.

"To stand in the face of a bushfire is terrifying. To have to flee, leaving the fire to consume the house that has been your home for many years, wiping out the personal possessions, photos, books, gifts and mementos that have marked the years of your life, can only be described as utterly devastating.

"Tasmania is a small, close-knit community and I am confident that all Tasmanians will rally around those stricken and displaced and willingly give them support and encouragement, both spiritual and material, to help rebuild strength and provide courage to face the future."

Hobart Lord Mayor Damon Thomas said the community had rallied around those affected by the fires.

"I am more than amazed by the heartfelt community support for people affected by Tasmania's devastating bushfires," Alderman Thomas said.

"All emergency services worked extremely well to cater for the evacuees from the Tasman Peninsula through the Evacuation and Recovery Centre in the City Hall.

"We had a number of ferries through the night with the last one at 4am today. Support staff were able to find accommodation till about 1am, then some 70 people stayed at the Centre overnight.

"Truly awe-inspiring support from the Tasmanian community"

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Fire closes S-W tracks, parks

Smoke drifts over Mt Wellington at sunset. Picture: RICHARD JUPE

SMOKE from a huge bushfire burning in the state's remote South-West is affecting communities in the Huon Valley and Hobart regions with the Parks and Wildlife Service closing walking tracks in the area.

"This fire, estimated to have burnt about 30,000 hectares, is affecting a large area between Lake Pedder and Port Davey," Parks incident controller Chris Arthur said today.

"In the interests of public safety all tracks in the Western and Eastern Arthur Ranges are closed."

Closed tracks include the Port Davey Track, Old Port Davey Track, Junction Creek Track, Arthur Plains Track, Cracroft Valley Track, Blakes Opening, Huon Track and the Old River traverse.

The Huon and Edgar campgrounds are also closed and the Parks and Wildlife Service expects closures to remain force for "an extended period of time".

Other parks affected by bushfires include Douglas Apsley National Park, which remains closed until further notice because of the blaze near Bicheno, which has also forced the closure of the Freycinet National Park and surrounding walking tracks.

The Mount Field National Park is also closed until further notice.

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Police search burnt premises

Dozens of homes have been razed in the fires with police fearful that lives may also have been lost. Pictures: CHRIS KIDD

POLICE are conducting a door-to-door search of burned out properties affected by this week's Tasmanian bushfires in case anyone has died.

Acting Commissioner Scott Tilyard told a press conference in Hobart that officers were conducting thorough searches of burnt out premises.

"They are going door to door confirming there are no people who have died," he said.

"It is still far too early to confirm that is not the case.

"We haven't found any deceased people at this stage but there's still quite a lot of premises that we have to go to.

"It was a very dangerous situation on Friday -- a really dangerous and fast-moving fire."

Acting Commissioner Tilyard said police were prioritising a handful of cases of missing people, particularly those whose plight had been raised through social media websites.

"I am fearful that someone may have died in this fire; we hope for the best but plan for the worst," he said.

"It is a very distinct possibility still, I think people should brace themselves for the fact that it could occur."

He said police were hoping to open the Arthur Highway to enable 1500 to 2000 displaced people to leave Nubeena and Port Arthur later today but he warned that it may yet be several days before it was possible for residents to return to their properties.

Tasmania Fire Service chief fire officer Mike Brown said dozens of fire crews were fighting more than 20 fires which had burned out more than 20,000ha of bush and would continue to burn for several days.

He said he was confident most fires could be contained within the next 48 hours

He said reinforcements from a number of interstate agencies would bolster the ranks of weary firefighters and additional aircraft had been sent to the state to aid the battle.

The fire service estimates 80-90 properties have been lost in the fires.

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