Fire Forest Management Victoria is battling inclement weather in its clean-up efforts in the Cobaw State Forest, putting a cloud over the forecast re-opening date on September 30.
The forest has been closed since a wild storm hit the region on June 9.
Loddon Mallee crews are currently clearing more than 90 kilometres of forest roads and tracks impacted by a large number of fallen trees, with ongoing potential for more trees to fall.
Hundreds of trees were damaged or destroyed in last month’s storm.
The storm hit the Macedon Ranges particularly hard, with most parks and forests currently closed. Some are predicted to take up to six months to clean up.
Forest Fire Management Victoria, FFMV, crews, comprised of 10 to 12 staff, are working every day, weather permitting, to re-open the forest to the public by clearing fallen trees, roads, tracks and public spaces.
Weather including strong wind, rain and snow is presenting new challenges for workers.
To show the scale of its operations, FFMV crews took photos of their heavy machinery dwarfed by some of the largest fallen trees, which need to be cut into sections and removed.
“Forest Fire Management Victoria is continuing work to assess community recovery needs and determine what is required to manage the clean-up,” FFMV Murray Goldfields acting district manager Tim Wishart said.
“Crews have been deployed
with specialist skills, including hazardous tree assessment and removal and dozer and excavator operations.
“This heavy machinery takes large fallen trees and moves them to the side of roads and tracks, for the time being, to create access for vehicles.”
With fire season approaching, crews are prioritising works to open roads and access areas required for fuel-management activities.
Macedon Ranges Shire Council reported last week it would take at least six months to clean up storm damage.
Hundreds of residents and landowners have requested council help to deal with a range of issues, including: building damage to homes and sheds; residential and rural fencing losses; water damage; and tree damage and debris – from one or two trees to more than 1000 on some larger properties.
Council has contracted several specialist arborists and clean-up businesses to help assess storm damage and lead tree clearing efforts on council roadsides and parklands, and provide urgent access to private properties.
Information on funding and other support services and advice can be found at mrsc.vic.gov.au/storm-recovery.
Council’s recovery operations centre can be contacted on 5422 0237 Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5pm or by emailing email@example.com.