Keeping parks open during a busy bushfire and visitor season
Friday 22 February, 2019
It’s all hands-on deck for Parks Victoria to ensure parks stay open, clean and safe during summer when fire season coincides with the busiest visitation as people head outside with family and friends.
Record numbers of people got active in the outdoors over the last few months. On Christmas Day more than 15,000 people visited the Twelve Apostles, the highest daily number recorded and in January more than 85,000 people visited Wilsons Promontory National Park, the highest monthly number recorded there. Visitors to other popular sites across the State are also on the rise.
This increase in visitation occurred while Parks Victoria worked alongside other agencies as part of Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) to prepare for, fight and recover from fires that burned across Victoria.
FFMVic Crews quickly suppressed a small fire in the north of Wilsons Promontory National Park with minimal impacts to visitors, attended a major fire which impacted most of Holey Plains State Park and responded to large fires started by lightning strikes in Walhalla, Timbarra and along the Thomson Jordan Divide Road. The Walhalla fire is now contained and the Thomson Divide fire is under control. During milder conditions there are ongoing measures to suppress these large fires, much of it hard labour, with crews extinguishing hot spots, treating hazardous trees, digging out hot stumps and blacking out hard to reach areas with hand tools and water.
Parks Victoria undertakes a variety of approaches to keep parks open during the busy bushfire season and ensure emergency management teams are equipped and supported. Staff are drawn in from districts unaffected by fire, to help support with core functions such as visitor services and park maintenance. Over 200 seasonal Project Firefighters are recruited and other employees have fire roles either on the ground as firefighters or helping with incident management and logistics. Additionally, Seasonal Rangers are employed during the summer to assist with the general day-to-day functions and provide essential support.
This summer between 350 – 400 Parks Victoria staff were deployed on any given day to support fire suppression efforts. This is more than 30 per cent of all staff.
Quotes attributable to Parks Victoria Graeme Baxter, Regional Director:
“We appreciate the community’s ongoing patience and support while we assist in supressing these major fires. We endeavour to keep providing quality nature-based experiences and delivering a high level of service in Parks across the region.”