Wye River bushfire maps: see the rapid fire devastation

A fire damaged car at Wye River on Sunday, December 27, two days after the bushfire surrounded the community and destroyed many homes. Source: AAP

These interactive maps show the destruction from the recent Wye River Bushfire.

On Christmas Day in 2015, the Wye River bushfire broke out and within 10 hours it had grown to more than seven times its size.

At 11.30am the fire was contained 4km north of the small Victorian community of Wye River and Separation Creek.

That same night the fire surrounded the towns, destroying many houses.

This interactive map shows how far and fast the bushfire spread.

No one died thanks to the residents being prepared for the fire and evacuating, according to Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley.

“If people were there, we would have seen death,” Mr Lapsley said.

The fire broke through the containment lines at roughly 11.30am on Christmas Day, and the order to evacuate came about half an hour later.

The fire started from a lightning strike in a gorge that was inaccessible, Mr Lapsley said.

Forest cover in that area was so dense that increased aerial water bombing would not have extinguished the fire, an interim report handed to the Victorian Government found.

However, Community Safety Services director John Nicholson does not believe the terrain struck by lightning was inaccessible to firefighters.

“A range of factors involved in initially controlling — or failing to control — the lightning strike to prevent the fire area growing to the extent where it broke out Christmas Day needs serious in-depth investigation,” Mr Nicholson said.

Mr Nicholson previously worked with the Victoria's Country Fire Authority for more than three decades.

Questions have been raised as to whether the Christmas Day fire was due to back burning.

Mr Lapsley has confirmed there was back burning in the days prior to the outbreak on Christmas Day, but said that was not to blame.

Victoria's coroner will investigate the events that contributed to the Christmas Day outbreak.

Mr Lapsley said the conditions on Christmas Day were primed for bushfire.

“It’s the driest the Otways, or that part of the Otways, has been for probably 30 - if not 40 - years,” Mr Lapsley said.

“That’s normally a wet forest, and a wet forest means it has significant fuel loads in it. A wet forest means it hasn’t been fuel-reduced.”

Once the fire broke its containment line, strong wind caused the fire to head south.

“The fire behaviour in the initial run was exceptional. It was fast, it was intense, it burned extremely hot,” Mr Lapsley said.

The community had met in November to discuss what they would do in an emergency, and when the fire broke out, most people left the area quickly.

A small number of volunteers stayed to help the firefighting effort, working with fire trucks and helicopters to save the town.

"The pub’s still there, the stores’ still there, [the] surf life saving club is still there."

The Insight episode 'Line of Fire' features bushfire experts and survivors who discuss what we know about bushfires, how to prevent them and ways to keep your family and community safer.

The episode screened on SBS from 8.30pm on Tuesday, February 16 and is now available on SBS On Demand.

This article has been updated after it was initially published with comments from John Nicholson.

Source SBS News

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