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Walhalla dodges yet another bullet!

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February 9, 2009. - It would have to be said that Walhalla's isolation has sometimes been its salvation, especially during periods of bushfire activity that have decimated other parts of the state, and this was never truer than on last weekend's "Black Saturday", when Victoria endured what must surely go down in the record books as one of Australia's worst bushfires ever. The tragic loss of so many lives and so much property, pets and livestock that occurred so swiftly and terrifyingly elsewhere skirted around our valley, as it has done more than once in the past, sheltered from the howling northerlies that scorched the rest of the state and drove the humidity down into single digits. Coupled with temperatures in the mid-40's, any spark anywhere couldn't help but blossom, and the last embers won't be extinguished until long after we receive widespread, soaking rain.

If you don't live in the valley, and weren't there on "Black Saturday", you might have been surprised to have heard some radio reports that spoke of people being forced to spend the night in the Long Tunnel Extended mine, no doubt an outstanding bolthole in which to escape the flames, and one of a kind for the lack of which, sadly, many people elsewhere literally died on that day ... but as sometimes seems to be the case in these circumstances, the Walhalla reality isn't always necessarily quite what the media reports. If you saw the wind on that day, you would believe that it could have driven the fires over vast distances in a very short time, but there weren't any fires in our neighbourhood, were there?

Well, actually there were, to the near north between Rawson and the Thomson Dam, and as you'll see, before they could be brought under control, they quickly gave those in the valley a decent fright. Michael Leaney, at the Star Hotel, sent out this email on the following Monday (today) to reassure the town's many friends that yet again, Walhalla has emerged untouched by the damage that has so savagely afflicted the rest of the state.

Obviously, Victoria has had a tragic weekend with bushfires and the losses are horrific.

The good news is that Walhalla has survived unscathed. The fire roared across the Britannia Spur at the northern edge of the township...it was very touch and go for a few moments, however the wind changed to the south and it started to rain ... it was like turning off a gas burner. The gods were indeed looking after the "Valley of the Gods" on Saturday night. We were saved by a window of perhaps 10 minutes!

The road to Walhalla was given the OK by the CFA at about 9.30pm so all the campers and non-essential people left town. They had been evacuated to the mine as a precaution, however (contrary to some media reports) they did not spend the night in the mine...just 30 minutes. I dare say that having seen results of the fires in other towns, these people would be thankful that Walhalla has a mine as a "refuge". As Mick from the mines says "rock will not burn". I should point out that we had asked campers and other visitors to leave in the afternoon ... but many did not listen or refused!

After the front passed, we were left with a slow fire trickling away in the bush on the northern edge of town and due west of the North Gardens Camp area in Consuls Gully. The community spent Saturday night monitoring the situation.

Early on Sunday morning we started to cut in a fire break at the north end of Walhalla. This work is continuing and should be finished this afternoon. The plan is to then back burn the final unburnt section. DSE hopes to have it in the bag by Friday. Mick Proeles has done an excellent job with his HUGE dozer ... a real saviour!

Our job now is clean up ... the "rain" on Saturday was wet ash and it has coated EVERYTHING!

Walhalla's businesses will reopen tomorrow [Feb 10th], and the railway will start to operate again on Saturday -- trees have fallen on the track as a result of the gale force winds (not the fire).

The road into Walhalla is also now open.

Thank you everyone for your best wishes. We're sorry if we were short with anyone on Saturday night ... we didn't have the time to chat!

Our hearts go out to the other communities affected by these fires ... Walhalla was very lucky indeed ... if we can help in any way, please sing out.

Regards,

M I C H A E L   L E A N E Y

News

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Path of the fire

Where the fire crossed the road just north of Walhalla.

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The committee and members of the Walhalla Heritage and Development League join Michael in offering our sincerest condolences to those who lost loved ones in the conflagration, and to those it touched who survived, but who will be scarred both visibly and otherwise by its horrible impact for months and years to come.

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