The iconic Great Ocean Road will be fully reopened tomorrow morning to allow visitors to return to the beautiful surf coast.
While the fire is not under control, it is currently burning away from the coast in deep seated forest and is blacked out along the Great Ocean Road between Cumberland River and Wye River.
Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said it was safe to reopen the Great Ocean Road which was critical for business and community, in what is a peak tourism period. It has been closed since Christmas Day.
“Business and tourism is a crucial part of what makes a community run and particularly in an area such as the surf coast which heavily relies on summer tourism,” he said.
The Great Ocean Road will open from 8.00am Wednesday at a reduced speed and no vehicles will be allowed to stop between Cumberland River and Wye River bridge. This includes look-out points and pull-over areas on the sides of the road.
“We want everyone to support local businesses and enjoy the area, but to be aware that there is still a fire being worked on so people will see aircraft and trucks and at times, smoke,” Mr Lapsley said.
“Keep up to date with the latest warnings and advice and if you are travelling to the area, check the Fire Danger Ratings before you go and while you are there. Know where to get information from and what you will do if the situation changes.
"Visitors are welcome and encouraged to return to these areas but please respect the privacy of residents and visitors who have been affected by the fire. This includes not taking photographs of fire affected residential areas.“
Aircraft and around 300 personnel continue to work on the fire each day, with the fire’s perimeter now 45 kilometres and 2500 hectares burnt. Crews from New Zealand and incident management personnel from New South Wales are also supporting.
Mr Lapsley said the focus has been on controlling the fire and returning residents to their homes.
“When fire conditions eased enough last week, the priority was to send specialist teams in to assess the damage and the work that needed to be undertaken to return people to their homes,” he said.
“Over the past few days we have seen the reopening of Kennett River and Cumberland River, including for campers, and residents safely returned to some homes in the Wye River and Separation Creek areas.
“Our thoughts are with those who cannot return to their homes or properties because of safety issues. There is still a lot of work to do in this space and we will continue to work with these communities."
Mr Lapsley said rehousing residents and reopening roads had been a huge logistical exercise and joint effort between agencies, local council, government, business and community.
“After a fire it is not as simple as saying the fire activity has subsided so we will reopen the road or a town. Building surveyors need to undertake assessments, infrastructure needs to be replaced and hazardous trees need to be looked at or removed - first and foremost it is about safety,” he said.
“Without agencies, government, business and communities working together we would not have been able to achieve what we have in and around Wye River, particularly in the time frame, and I thank each and every one of you who have contributed and the residents and public for their patience.”
- See the latest warnings and advice by visiting emergency.vic.gov.au
- Tune to ABC Local Radio, commercial and designated community radio stations, or Sky News TV.
- Call the Victorian Bushfire Information Line (VBIL) on freecall 1800 240 667.
- Download the FireReady App and set up a Watch Zone or follow VicEmergency on Twitter (#VicFires) or Facebook.
Relief, recovery and information:
- An information point is at Shop 9 Cumberland Complex, Mountjoy Pde, Lorne. (10am -4pm daily).
- CFA Information Point buses will be at the Apollo Bay foreshore all day tomorrow (Wednesday).
- The Emergency Relief Centre in Apollo Bay has closed. A Community Recovery Information Centre has been set up in its place at the Colac Otway Shire Council building, 69 Nelson Street Apollo Bay. Opening hours are 9am – 5pm.
- For further information about access to your property call the Colac Otway Shire on 5232 9400 (8.30am-5.15pm Mon – Fri)
- The Victorian Emergency Recovery Information Line on 1300 799 232.
Travelling information and park closures:
- Visitors can access Cumberland River Holiday Park, Big4 Wye River Holiday Park, Wye River Foreshore Camping Reserve, Wye General Store & Café, Wye Beach Hotel and other businesses.
- There is restricted access to residential areas in Wye River North and Separation Creek due to the health and safety risks from the bushfire that has affected the area.
- Traffic Management Points will be in place at The Boulevard and Wallace Street in Wye River and Stanway Drive and Sarsfield Street in Separation Creek. Residents of these areas have been granted limited access.
- These areas will also be temporarily fenced and marked with safety messaging and will be patrolled day and night. There is no public access to these areas.
- Some sections of the Great Otway National Park remain closed south of Lorne through to Skenes Creek. Benwerrin-Mt Sabine Road remains closed from Grey River Road to Erskine Falls Road.
- If local residents or visitors near fire-affected areas on the Great Ocean Road see wildlife that appear injured or distressed, they should contact the Wildlife Welfare Officer on 5233 5565.
- If wildlife is seen to be injured or distressed along the no-stopping zone, drivers should not stop. Please notify the Wildlife Welfare Officer on 5233 5565.