WATER bombers have saved some areas from the out-of-control Gippsland blaze.CFA Heyfield operations coordinator and Cowwarr cattle producer John O’Brien said the four aircraft in the area had slowed the main fire front.
“Because we had four aircraft (in the region) that made a big difference compared to previous fires...they could concentrate on cutting the main thrust of the fire,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Without them today we would have had chaos.
“With the aircraft it’s a different game than what we had 20 years ago.”
Mr O’Brien has more than 40 years of experience fighting fires in the area and said there was some confusion when the fire got out of control.
“Last night everything hit the fan, some people were woken up at 10pm and told to leave at day light. We are still trying to pick out who is where,” he said.
“There is a strike team at Licola and it’s not easy to pull it all together.”
Mr O’Brien said the threat had passed in his hometown of Cowwar when the wind changed earlier today but there had been spot fires on the golf course on the edge of Heyfield.
“We still have a problem with the South West corner of the region...the fire is still active on the range,” he said.
At the Sale relief centre Coongulla resident Sue Noonan told of her frightening evacuation after a 4am warning call from authorities.
“We got a call at 4am...they said get in your car and go,” Mrs Noonan said. “I got our medication and clothes into the car and drove out.”
She said they were in such a hurry they left their pet dogs, but have since found out a neighbour had rescued them.
Wally Grant stayed in Coongulla and said the town was deserted and he was keeping an eye out for spot fires but no houses or infrastructure had been burnt.
“We were going to go...we have friends in the CFA and they rang us at 3am this morning, we are watching for little fires in Coongulla,” Mr Grant said.
“There is no one else left in town...at this stage we will stick it out I don’t want to lose my house.”