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Mallacoota And District Media, Events & Living Film

Black Summer Fires About the fires that hit Mallacoota and District in 2019/20

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About Mallacoota and District

The far east of Victoria is a largely unspoilt coastal wilderness. Mallacoota is located 517km from Melbourne, nestled within the Croajingolong National Park.  The town is located along a 23km turnoff from the main Princes Highway at the mouth of the Mallacoota inlet.  Mallacoota’s remoteness, spectacular views, forests, secluded beaches and waterways have made it a popular tourist destination. 

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Natural Assets

The Croajingolong National Park (87,5000 hectares) and the adjoining Nadgee Nature Reserve over the border in New South Wales, are classified as UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves – covering an area of more than 100km. There are also stretches of State Forest and Crown Land. 

The coast encompasses habitats ranging from coastal dunes and heathlands to banksia woodlands, wet and dry sclerophyll forests and rainforests.  These habitats hold a significant biodiversity of fungi, grasses, flowering plants, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals.  The area is also home to both flora and fauna species that are not found elsewhere in Victoria.

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The NYE 2019/2020 Bushfires

On 29th December 2019, the Wingan Inlet / Banana Track fire was started by lightning south of the Princes Highway.  It was detected by satellite data, despite fire towers and aircraft surveillance, due to so much smoke covering Gippsland at the time. The extended dryness of the region meant that all fuels were available.  Large aircraft were part of the response, which slowed the spread a little but the fire built. Pyrocumulus clouds saw the fire create its own weather pattern. 

There were three CFA strike teams in the area.  Mallacoota had access to 17-18 tankers, a couple of graders and a couple of slip-on trucks. The town was divided into three sectors before the fire to identify the critical infrastructure and things that were important to the community, in consultation with the local brigade.  

Situational awareness was important during this fire – eyes on the fire and eyes on the community. The crews had awareness of when the community went on the move and could move resources to follow and protect people as the first and core priority. On New Year’s Eve there were fires surrounding Mallacoota and roads were blocked. Skies were black with smoke blocking sunlight.

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The Statistics

  • 1063 permanent Mallacoota residents (with 846 private dwellings), 55 residents (59 dwellings)in Genoa
  • Over 200 properties affected in the fires.96 houses were destroyed in Mallacoota, 6 in Genoa and 1 in Gypsy Point.
  • The clean-up program saw 169 properties and 490 structures cleared in Mallacoota and 39 properties and 128 structures cleared in Genoa.
  • 635,365 ha of public land burnt within the Snowy District (including Mallacoota and Genoa) (DELWP)
  • 29,885 ha of private land burnt within the Snowy District (including Mallacoota and Genoa) (DELWP)
  • Approximately 4000 people sheltered near the waterfront boat ramp and many more people sheltered in the local Hall and Recreational Centre.

[Refs: ABS, 2016 census, EGSC, DELWP, Grocon, BRV Accommodation strategy]