Due to the scale of the operation, forest contractors, including VicForests, have been engaged to assist FFMVic in the recovery efforts.
Grampians Deputy Chief Fire Officer Tony English said that heavy vehicles and machinery would be active in the area from now until July as debris is removed from roads, tracks and road reserves within the forests.
‘The key objective of this work is to reduce bushfire risks caused by fallen and hazardous trees from these storms, and enable safe and rapid response to bushfires,’ Mr English said.
Across the Wombat and Cobaw State Forests, 60 sites have been identified and prioritised informed by fire risk modelling.
Works to remove storm debris will start in Barkstead at Barkstead South Road and Pinchgut Road and then progress to the following priority areas:
- Blackwood – Povey Track
- Barrys Reef – Albion Track
- Lyonville – Lyonville Springs Rd
- Trentham East – Firth Park
FFMVic will maintain oversight of all works to ensure that environmental, biodiversity and cultural values are managed during these debris management operations.
While works are taking place, buffer zones will be implemented to prevent impacts occurring to forest streams.
Smaller debris and existing ground cover will be retained to provide protection from erosion and to limit impacts to forest values. In some cases planned burning may be carried out to further reduce risk.
As fallen trees can also provide valuable habitat for wildlife, some will be left in place where appropriate. For all other debris, the best end use will be considered – this may include for domestic firewood collection, commercial firewood and timber products, park furniture, bollards and supporting community-led projects.
Due to the extent of the damage in the Wombat and Cobaw State Forests, some tracks in the area will be closed to the public while works are carried out.
Mr English said that public safety is the number one concern while these critical recovery works are being carried out.
‘We understand these road and track closures may cause an inconvenience, but community safety remains our highest priority.’