By Matt Male
MORE than 200 paid and volunteer firefighters prevented a 647-acre bushfire from destroying homes – and lives – in Grantville at the weekend.
The only asset damaged was a fence.
And as of 3.48am on Monday morning, the fire in the Grantville Nature Reserve had been contained.
Officials say lightning is the likely cause of the fire, which broke out at around noon on Friday.
Firefighters, including CFA volunteers and Forest Fire Management Victoria workers, also prevented the bushfire from reaching the Grantville tip – which has asbestos and tyres.
The 62 residents in Adams Estate were also in the firing line, but firefighters managed to prevent the blaze from hitting homes.
It’s the largest bushfire, locals say, to hit the area since the mid-1950s.
Four water bombers, as well as bulldozers, graders and excavators were all called in to help fight the blaze.
There were also spot fires in Coronet Bay and Corinella, likely ignited from embers, but they were quickly contained, and the major fire remained on the other side of the Bass Highway near Adams Estate for most of the weekend.
“I’ve been here 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Grantville’s John Hulley on Friday evening.
“My wife and I saw the smoke from the back of our house.
“We talked to our neighbours and they said they received an alert on their phone, I don’t think we did, but that’s when we left.”
The Hulleys returned home on Friday night after the smoke died down.
Around 150 people attended a community meeting the following morning, held outside the Grantville Transaction Centre.
“The source of the ignition; we’re not 100 per cent sure at this stage,” said Forest Fire Management Victoria deputy incident controller Andrew Nixon.
“Our fire investigators will do some work on that as the conditions allow, but we understand it was likely to be lightning.”
Mr Nixon fielded several questions from residents, including concerns from those in Tenby Point that they weren’t told to evacuate until the fire had jumped across the highway and their homes were in the firing line.
Mr Nixon promised to relay the concerns to officials.
One resident asked if they needed any volunteers to help make food for the firefighters or people fleeing their homes, which was followed by a round of applause from the crowd.
Another resident didn’t want to leave their home, as they had their son’s belongings there, who passed away some years earlier.
Another said firefighters were “busting their gut” to get through the vegetation and asked what would be done in the future to prepare for such a fire – such as, more cleared tracks.
Officials also noted several complaints about motorists not driving to conditions through the hills, after police blocked off the Bass Highway and diverted traffic up into areas including Kernot and Almurta.
Some were speeding, residents along the roads say, while others were taking corners too fast.
By Monday morning, smoke was affecting surrounding communities, but firefighters had the blaze contained.
THE bushfire in the Grantville Nature Reserve broke out at around noon on Friday.
An evacuation warning was issued for Adams Estate at around 3.15pm.
At 5pm, the Grantville BP service station closed and police blocked off the Bass Highway for traffic trying to get to Phillip Island.
Another evacuation warning was issued for Adams Estate at around 7.30pm.
At around 2pm on Saturday, the fire broke containment lines and an emergency warning was issued for parts of Almurta, Bass, Glen Forbes and Grantville.
The fire began heading towards Dalyston-Glen Forbes Road.
At the time, the warning said the “bushfire is threatening homes and lives”.
“The safest option is to take shelter indoors immediately. It is too late to leave,” the alert said.
The warning was later downgraded to a ‘Watch and Act’, but still encouraged people to stay close to a building for shelter if conditions change again.
At around 3.45pm on Sunday, an emergency warning was issued for Adams Estate, Almurta, Glen Forbes and Grantville.
It said the safest option was to take shelter indoors immediately.
“Leaving now would be deadly,” the alert said.
By 3.45am on Monday morning, the fire had been contained.