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Bicheno blaze hots up

Written By miftah nugraha on Sabtu, 05 Januari 2013 | 19.55

One of many properties razed yesterday at Dunalley. Picture: CHANNEL NINE

IMPROVED weather conditions will assist firefighting efforts across the state today but the threat from the devastating blazes is far from over.

The Tasmania Fire Service says the bushfire causing most concern is just south of Bicheno.

A short time ago an emergency warning was issued for the area and it is feared 12 properties may have already been lost.

The TFS has 24 firefighting crews and one water-bombing helicopter on site.

TFS incident spokesman Michael Watkins said the fire had now jumped the Tasman Highway, south of Bicheno, and prevailing winds were pushing it inland and making it very difficult to control.

The Tasman Highway is closed to all traffic at the Coles Bay turn-off.

"The TFS believes property has been lost at in the Courland Bay Rd area and is sending in crews to assess the damage," Mr Watkins said.

Community fire refuges have opened at the Bicheno Community Hall and the Swansea Football Ground.

The fire at Lake Repulse, in the Upper Derwent Valley, slowed down overnight and has been downgraded to a "watch and act" alert level.

Residents at Ellendale, Karanja, Lawrenny and Hamilton have been advised to remain vigilant. Mt Field National Park remains closed.

The massive bushfire that started in Forcett, in the state's south-east, on Thursday has destroyed at least 80 properties in Dunalley, Murdunna, Boomer Bay, Copping, Connellys Marsh, Dodges Ferry and Primrose Sands.

The TFS says the property count is expected to rise.

The fire has not been contained but has been downgraded to a "watch and act" level.

The Arthur Highway remains closed. While efforts are being made to reopen the only road to the Tasman Peninsula, police are unsure when this will happen.

At a briefing this morning, TFS chief officer Mike Brown said there had been no confirmed deaths as a result of the bushfires.

Mr Brown said yesterday's high winds and record high temperatures mirrored conditions on the day of the 1967 bushfire disaster.

"The conditions of yesterday were comparable with that terrible day. On that day we lost 2000 homes and 62 lives, so I think it speaks volumes for the really hard work that was done yesterday and our more advanced operational and warning systems that we are able to use," he said.

Mr Brown said the Forcett blaze was causing spot fires and ember attacks at Eaglehawk Neck and people in that area needed to either activate their bushfire plans or leave for a safer place.

"It will be days (before the fire can be controlled) because the fire is burning in many areas that are very difficult to get to. There's a lot of very heavy forest and heavy fuel," he said.

A boat arrived at Dodges Ferry this morning carrying 3000 meals, fuel, bottled water and ambulance and other health workers.

They will head to Nubeena, where they will distribute supplies and aid.

About 2000 people are sheltering at the community refuge centre at Nubeena, 600 people at Port Arthur and up to 100 people at the Dunalley pub.

Acting Police Commissioner Scott Tilyard said police were trying to source a generator for the Dunalley hotel.

"If they can get some power there I think they are planning on doing a community barbecue for people. People are bringing in meat that is going off in the freezer," he said.

"There's a great sense of community out there, people are helping each other and coming together as happens in these circumstances."

Acting Commissioner Tilyard said Aurora and Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources workers had been working to remove power lines and trees from the Arthur Highway in an effort to reopen the road.

'We're hopeful of … at some point in the near future at least having some form of escorted access for people -- particularly coming off the Tasman Peninsula -- during the day," he said.

Acting Commissioner Tilyard could not confirm when residents in affected areas would be allowed to return to their homes to assess the damage.

He said power outages had occurred across the Tasman Peninsula.

It is understood mobile transmission towers may also have been lost in the fire.

This was affecting communication between people in the area and their loved ones elsewhere.

"There are certainly many residences and areas that do not have power," he said.

People with mobile phones would have no means to recharge the batteries.

• A hotline is now open for people who cannot make contact with friends and family in bushfire-affected areas. The number is 132 500.

READ ALL THE LATEST IN TOMORROW'S SUNDAY TASMANIAN ...


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Power cuts could last weeks

POWER supplies in bushfire-ravaged areas may not be restored for several weeks, Aurora Energy said today.

The infrastructure losses from the devastating blazes are so great that interstate crews may be called in to help with the massive restoration effort.

"Aurora Energy crews have been surveying the damage between Forcett and the upper Tasman Peninsula and clearing wires and poles from access roads," Aurora said in a statement today.

"It is estimated that in the Forcett fire alone more than 300 poles and scores of transformers have been destroyed, just on the main roads.

"Much of the electricity supply to the Forestier Peninsula and Tasman Peninsula is via a single spur line, now effectively destroyed by the fire.

"More than 100 Aurora field workers and support staff are at work today, making affected areas safe, clearing access roads, assessing damage, taking fault calls from customers and organising resources and support.

"It is possible that support may be requested in the form of back-up electricity workers and equipment from mainland electricity distribution companies, in order to hasten the electricity restoration effort."

Aurora also issued a warning that any electricity lines found on the ground should be assumed to be live and must be avoided.

Downed lines should be immediately reported to Aurora on 132 004.


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PM pledges fire support

PRIME MINISTER Julia Gillard says the Federal Government is working with local and state authorities to support communities affected by bushfires across Tasmania.

Three fires are threatening communities along the East Coast and in central Tasmania, with thousands of people stranded as roads are cut off.

When asked if the Federal Government would provide financial assistance to victims, Ms Gillard said the main focus was combating the blazes.

"We've got very clear arrangements for how local authorities, state authorities and federal authorities work together," she told the Nine Network.

"Unfortunately ... our world has given us the opportunity to test all of this, time and time again ... so we'll keep working to support communities."

She said the focus at the moment was "still fighting the fires".

Ms Gillard said she would like to visit bushfire-ravaged communities but needed to ensure she would not disrupt any emergency efforts.

"I do like to go and visit communities that have been affected by disasters, but you've got to judge the right time ... and you are not in any way disrupting what are immediate efforts to deal with the emergency."

She said it broke her heart when she saw footage of the damage caused by bushfires.

"I'm obviously from Victoria. We saw that huge loss of life in the Victorian bushfires. The destructive power of fires is just so awesome.

"So whenever you see those pictures, whenever you see that kind of loss, it really does touch a chord in you."

Ms Gillard reminded people the extreme heat was widespread across Australia.

"That means there are risks in more areas than Tasmania," she said.

"The best thing people can do is stay in touch with local authorities."

The State Government urged people Tasmanians needing assistance to contact their local refuge centre.

For more information, including addresses of refuge centres, click here. 

Acting Department of Health and Human Services secretary Michael Pervan said a number of refuge centres had been set up to help people access accommodation and other services.

Mr Pervan said the agency was providing emergency accommodation, financial payments, counselling, food and medical services.

"Thousands of people have been displaced temporarily and we are working with other emergency services through our refuge centres to help in this difficult time," he said in a statement.

The Southern Recovery Committee, with help from local councils, has set up three emergency refuge centres -- Sorell Hall, Cole St, Sorell, the Civic Centre, Nubeena and the Hobart City Hall, Macquarie St -- to cater for people evacuated from the peninsula.

Children and Youth Services will provide needs-assessed emergency relief payments to permanent residents of Tasmania.

Housing Tasmania is providing emergency accommodation for people displaced by fires.

It is appealing for accommodation providers in the greater Hobart area with room to house families of between four and eight people for up to two nights to call on 6233 8829.


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House blaze adds to fire woes

Written By miftah nugraha on Jumat, 04 Januari 2013 | 19.55

The Butler Ave, Moonah, house as it was engulfed in smoke. Pictures: ROGER LOVELL

FIRE has damaged a house in Butler Ave, Moonah, this afternoon, stretching the Tasmania Fire Service which is already battling numerous blazes around the state.

The fire was quickly brought under control.

It is unclear how much damage the fire caused to the house or surrounding buildings.


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Copping properties lost

AT least one house has been lost as the uncontrolled blaze near Copping continues to rage.

One local resident, who asked not to be named, said he had seen his house catch fire from a nearby property.

"I was on a spur and I could see the fire come across," he said.

"The great big house at the top of the hill went first and then it came down to my house.

"I saw it catch fire -- I knew where to look -- and I thought 'Any moment now', and it went up.

"There a lot of nice things gone but that is the way of the world. It's a devil of a thing."

Fires rage across the State

The man said just hours before the fire arrived at his home, about 1km west of Copping, he had removed his most cherished possession.

"I have my vehicle out the back here loaded up with valuable because there was no way I could save my place," he said.

"I just scrammed. You have to be sensible about these things."

Shortly after 4pm, fire crews scrambled to protect properties in the vicinity Marshton Lane, south of Copping.

Fanned by heavy winds the fire continued to burn out of control and on a long front to the west and south of Copping.

The fire front is now affecting Dunalley, Primrose Sands, Murdunna, Sommers Bay and surrounds.

It is expected to affect Eaglehawk Neck, Taranna and Doo Town within an hour.

The Tasman Highway has been closed by police road block at several point between Sorell and Dunalley.

As the fire slowly approaches, Copping residents are likely to be evacuated via the Wielangta road to Orford.

The large bushfire jumped the Arthur Highway near Carlton River at Copping shortly after 1.30pm.

A sudden deterioration in the wind fanned the flames across the road and towards the house where residents had earlier said they were planning to stay.

"We were at Port Arthur at our shack, so we came up last night but it doesn't seem to be getting any worse," the owner said earlier this morning.

"We are perfectly safe here. We've got a ploughed paddock and a road between us and the fire, although where it will go from here, I don't know."

For further details, visit www.fire.tas.gov.au and listen to ABC local radio for updates and emergency broadcasts.

On the upper side of the Arthur Highway, TFS crews were able to defend a home which was completely surrounded by the fast-moving fire.

Aided by the close-cropped paddocks of the hill-top farm, firefighters were able to minimise damage to the property, which lost several old wooden wagons and a large store of hay, but was otherwise undamaged.

The fire tore through forest adjacent to the Copping landfill site, which is the site of a controversial contaminated waste disposal development.

One local resident, who was too upset to speak in detail, said he has fought a desperate battle with a fire pump and hose to protect his property.

The man said moments before the fire reached his house the pump ran out of petrol.

It was only the rapid arrival of fire fighters that saved the man's house.

Several buildings at the property were destroyed.

The fire is currently around 1km from the small town of Copping, burning in rugged bushland.

The flames also came to within metres of Nick Hildyard's home, several kilometres north of Copping.

My Hillyard, his father in a bulldozer and several locals with fire-fighting equipment stopped the fire almost the house's back door.

"It was pretty close, I guess," My Hillyard said.

Todd Hildyard was out cutting firebreaks with his bulldozer when the fire threatened his home.

"We were bloody lucky, she was awful close to getting in here," Mr Hildyard said as he surveyed the burnt grass surrounding his home.

"We've been putting in breaks since last night. We've been going flat out

"We were waiting on the wind; we knew once it got here the fire would go.

"This is the biggest fire we've had here for 20 years."

The fire threatened several other houses in the area and although none were lost a large wool shed near the highway was completely destroyed.

Local Mark Seabourne said the fire approached quickly as the wind changed.

"It done come very close, but they've kept it away," he said,

"Lucky Nigel was up there with a load of water on his truck."

Nigel White, whose property is nearby, said the fire is being fanned by strong winds.

"It looks like it's going towards Connelly's Marsh and Primrose Sands and the back of Dunalley," he said.

The fire is burning about 3km north of the town of Copping,

Police and fire fighters have warned residents they should evacuate ahead the blaze.

The Arthur Highway between Forcett and Dunalley has been closed, cutting off access to the Tasman Peninsula.

The Highway was closed at noon, because of the anticipated effects of the bushfire burning in the area.

The Highway is closed from Old Forcett Rd at Forcett to Copping.

All tourists intending to travel to this area are asked to stay away.

Police said the closure would be reassessed as conditions ease.

The fire which has burnt out about 1000ha of bushland near Copping continued to burn uncontained through the morning.

Many locals had taken Tasmania Fire Service advice to evacuate while others turned out to help with the fire-fighting effort.

The fire was burning in bushland north of the Arthur Highway near Copping.

Kate North, from the Copping Convict and Colonial Collection tourist attraction, said she wasn't presently concerned about the danger posed by the fire.

"If the wind doesn't come up we should be OK," she said.

"The problem will be if it gets up into the bush and heads towards Dunalley.

"We've had a lot of tourists through today and a lot of were heading for Port Arthur."

Ms North said many local residents had evacuated the area on the advice of the TFS.

"We know people right down near Marion Bay who have cleared out.

"We were worried last night when it was coming towards our house but then the wind turned and it went the other way."

Despite warm and blustery conditions during the morning, there did not appear to be any immediate threat to property nor to the town of Copping itself.

However, the conditions are expected to deteriorate later in the day.

Police have also advised that people should avoid the Stormlea area, near Nubeena, where a vegetation fire is burning.

The TFS has earlier advised residents in areas near two major bushfires burning out of control in the state's South to leave their homes early this morning.

The Tasmania Fire Service says people should get out first thing this morning and stay out of the affected regions until further notice.

With the two blazes raging at Forcett, near Sorell, and in the Lake Repulse region in the lower Derwent Valley, those affected are residents of:

• Broad River

• Jones River

• Ellendale Rd to Ellendale

• The Copping area, including Kellevie Rd

• Marion Bay Rd

• Arthur Highway

"People living in these areas need to plan now," fire service spokesman Gavin Freeman said last night.

He said there were several fires burning across the state last night that were of major concern to the fire service ahead of predicted extreme fire weather conditions today.

"The safest option is to leave [this] morning and go to a relative or friend's house away from the affected areas.

"Even well-prepared properties may not be defendable."

Given the predicted conditions today, the fire service says it may not be able to control fires.

People who relocate need to be self-sufficient.

Community fire refuges will be open from 8am today at the Ouse Hall on the Lyell Highway, and the Memorial Hall on Cole St, Sorell.

"If you choose not to leave and the fire is going to impact on you, you may be able to travel to a nearby safer place.

Otherwise you should prepare to shelter in your home," Mr Freeman said.

"Leaving at the last minute can be extremely dangerous."

The fire service was last night battling 22 blazes across the state, using 63 fire trucks, nine helicopters and one plane.

Forestry Tasmania, Parks and Wildlife and Norske Skog were also helping in the mammoth effort to control the blazes before weather conditions dramatically worsened today.

The worst of the fires yesterday were at Lake Repulse, Forcett and Richmond in the state's South, and Four Mile Creek on the East Coast.

Middle Tea Tree Rd at Richmond remained closed last night, with fire crews battling a blaze within kilometres of the township.

However, the fire service said the worst danger had passed by last night.

Earlier in the afternoon, residents in the path of the fire were advised to leave their homes before the fire got any closer unless their property was defendable.

Richmond local Andrew Patterson and his son Alec turned out to help fight the fire along Middle Tea Tree Rd.

"It's been a few years since we had a decent fire through here," he said between hosing off patches of burning grass.

"I don't want to see my paddock of barley go up in flames. Luckily it has stayed on this side of the road."

Mr Patterson said he was already planning for the danger of fire in the hot and windy conditions when the blaze broke out.

"We were driving home and I said to Alec we'd better go and fill the fire tank up, and halfway between here and Cambridge I saw the smoke and I thought 'I don't like the look of that'."

A total fire ban remains in place statewide today.

Report any outbreak of smoke or fire in your area immediately by calling 000.

-- with ZARA DAWTREY


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Firies fear for Dunalley homes

Forcett fire rips through Copping and Dunalley

TASMANIAN police say they are not able to confirm reports of a death in a huge bushfire in the state's south that has already destroyed homes, a school and an RSL club.

They say up to 65 structures could have been damaged or destroyed in the small community of Dunalley, 55km south-east of Hobart.

They include the local school, RSL club, service station and houses, ABC television reported.

About 15 houses at nearby Boomer Bay could also have been lost as the impact of catastrophic fire conditions in southern Tasmania begins to emerge.

Tasmania Police commissioner Scott Tilyard said no death had been confirmed.

"It really has the status of a rumour at this stage," he told the ABC.

But as a police boat was being sent to rescue people taking refuge on the waterfront at the top of the Tasman Peninsula, damage to property was becoming clearer.

"Reports are of anything up to about 65 buildings may have been impacted by the fire and that is the area where there has been an unconfirmed report that possibly there might have been one life lost," Mr Tilyard said.

About 50 people were awaiting the arrival of the police vessel to help them evacuate but were safe, he said.

Huge plumes of smoke were visible from Hobart on Friday as the island capital sweltered through its hottest day on record.

Accompanying winds whipped up the two largest blazes that had started on Thursday; at Forcett, near Dunalley, and Lake Repulse near Mt Field National Park northwest of Hobart.

Tasmania Fire Service chief officer Mike Brown said conditions today had reached the catastrophic level in the rating system developed after the Black Saturday fires in Victoria.

"We reached catastrophic fire danger ratings at times during this afternoon," he told reporters.

"I don't think we're quite out of the woods yet."

On a day Hobart hit a top temperature of 41.8C -- smashing the previous record of 40.8 set in 1976 -- up to 40 fires were burning around the state.

The TFS used its emergency phone warning system to ask residents to leave the affected areas and police said about 80 per cent had chosen to go.

Near Dunalley, the TFS said it was too late to leave the communities of Connellys Marsh or Primrose Sands.

Those at Connellys Marsh were being advised the nearby beach was a safer option for them.

Carlton River Rd was considered impassable and Primrose Sands residents were also being told to head to the nearby beach.

The popular Port Arthur tourist area was cut off after police closed the Arthur Highway, isolating the Tasman Peninsula.

The second major fire, which authorities suspect was started by a campfire, is affecting communities including Broad River, Jones River and Ellendale.

Late this afternoon, the TFS upgraded a warning for another fire near Bicheno in that area.

Campers were being evacuated and residents were being encouraged to act on their bushfire plans or leave.

A large grass fire at Epping Forest in the state's north was also causing concern.

A mild southerly change was due in Hobart about midnight after conditions considered worse than 2006-07, when houses were lost on the state's east coast.

The change is unlikely to bring rain but could ignite more fires with lightning strikes, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

"Lighter winds tomorrow and milder temperatures and higher relative humidities will be of help," senior forecaster Malcolm Downing said.

Hobart hit 41.8C at 4.05pm, its highest temperature since record keeping started in 1883.

Authorities say smoke is likely to be visible for several hours and people sensitive to it should stay indoors.

  • Anyone seeking information about loved ones in the worst-hit areas can call the special emergency hotline, 1800 567 567.

 


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Richmond fire threat eases

Written By miftah nugraha on Kamis, 03 Januari 2013 | 19.55

A BUSHFIRE warning for the historic township of Richmond has been downgraded by the Tasmania Fire Service.

Just before 3pm today, the TFS said the fire would put the town under direct, extreme risk within 15 minutes.

The TFS warned embers would be blown ahead of the fire-front, creating spot fires that could threaten homes.

An hour later, the warning was downgraded to "watch and act".

About 14 fire crews, assisted by a water-bombing aircraft, were tackling the blaze between Middle Tea Tree Rd and Richmond late this afternoon.

Strong winds and high temperatures made their efforts more difficult but the fire was separated from the popular tourist town by about 2km of cleared farmland.

Firefighters were also kept busy with a large uncontrolled blaze at Lake Repulse, just west of Ouse.

The TFS had 11 vehicles at the fire late this afternoon and advised residents to consider leaving.

It warned changing conditions about 6pm could create a threat to homes at Ouse, and along the Lyell Highway up to Ellendale Rd.

As a result of the blaze, police closed Ellendale, Dawson and Lake Repulse roads.

Police also evacuated campers and farmers around the lake.

No traffic was allowed into the area.

The TFS warned of embers, smoke and ash falling on Ouse and the Lyell Highway.

Larges fires were also burning near Forcett, south-east of Hobart, and at Four Mile Creek, on the East Coast.

Get the latest fire updates at the TFS website.

The Parks and Wildlife Service announced today it would close some walking tracks tomorrow because of the very high fire danger.

Tracks in the Mt Field, Freycinet, Douglas Apsley, South Bruny and Maria Island national parks would be temporarily closed as a safety measure, PWS fire operations manager Adrian Pyrke said.

The closures would run from 6pm today to 6am on Saturday.


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SA police broaden search

THE search for missing Adelaide woman Rachael Moritz has spread to Tasmania.

Ms Moritz has been missing since just before Christmas, although the 20-year-old may have contacted her father briefly by phone on New Year's Day.

South Australia Police today said they believed the missing woman's Mazda sedan was used in the shooting of Jason De Ieso in November.

The car was later found burn out at Kangarilla, south of Adelaide.

"The car was reported stolen and police are confident that Ms Moritz was not present at the murder scene," police said in a statement.

Mr De Ieso, 33, was shot dead when a group of men walked into his Adelaide paint and panel shop armed with guns and fired several times.

In the search for Ms Moritz, police said they now had information suggesting she was interstate.

An unconfirmed report put her at Adelaide Airport on December 23 in the company of a middle-aged woman.

Police said they had no information to suggest she was being held against her will, despite ongoing concerns from her family.

Officers are keen to speak to Ms Moritz to confirm she is safe and well.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or click here.


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Attempted murder charges laid

A BURNIE father has been charged with attempted murder over a car explosion last month in which he and his two sons were badly burned.

Paul Brian Edward Connelly, 49, was charged in a special bedside sitting of the Hobart Magistrates Court at the Royal Hobart Hospital today.

Mr Connelly has been in hospital since the explosion at the Burnie suburb of Shorewell Park on December 5.

He has been charged with two counts of attempted murder and two counts of grievous bodily harm.

Mr Connelly, who remains in hospital in a serious condition, was remanded in custody to appear again in the Hobart Magistrates Court on January 23.

The two boys, aged five and eight, are in a serious but stable condition in the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne with burns to about 25 per cent of their bodies.


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Girl, 3, burned in camp fire

Written By miftah nugraha on Rabu, 02 Januari 2013 | 19.55

A THREE-YEAR-OLD girl has suffered serious burns to her back after falling into a camp fire on Maria Island last night.

The police rescue helicopter was sent to the incident about 7pm.

The girl was treated at the scene before being transported to the Royal Hobart Hospital.

MORE TO COME...


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Guilty plea over assault

A UNIVERSITY student has been given a bond for punching another young woman in a Hobart nightclub.

Alexandra Fountain, 21, of Broadbeach, Queensland, appeared before the Hobart Magistrates' Court today where she pleaded guilty to common assault.

The court heard Fountain was extremely drunk when she tried to enter the VIP section of Hobart nightclub Mobius on April 10, 2011.

When a staff member denied her entry, Fountain became angry and punched the woman in the face.

The court heard the former St Michael's Collegiate student was now studying business and communications at Griffith University and was very regretful for her actions which came about after she had consumed upwards of eight vodkas and ran into a former boyfriend.

Magistrate Olivia McTaggert said the court dealt daily with people who made bad decisions when drunk, but she did not think Fountain was likely to reoffend.

She placed Fountain on a 12-month good behaviour bond and did not record a conviction.


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Total fire ban likely

THE Tasmania Fire Service is likely to declare a total fire ban for tomorrow and Friday, with temperatures set to soar into the thirties.

Windy conditions are also forecast for Friday, putting the state's firefighters on high alert amid very dry conditions.

Fire hot spots include Tasmania's South-East, the Derwent Valley and the East Coast, with danger ratings increasing to very high and severe across much of the state.

TFS chief Mike Brown today advised members of the public to make sure any fires lit on their properties during the past week were completely extinguished.

"This means making sure fires that have been extinguished are cool to touch and checking the fire is not burning in the root systems of plants," he said in a statement.

"Special care must be taken when using machinery that emits sparks, such as mowers, slashers, grinders and other cutting tools, as this type of activity have the potential to start fires".

Mr Brown also said campers should not light fires over the next two days. Outdoor cooking would be limited to electric or gas barbecues.

"In the event of a total fire ban, there must be no fires lit in the open," he said.

"Bushwalkers may only use gas cookers and they must only be used in areas free from any combustible material for a distance of 1m.

"Cookers using solid or liquid fuels must not be used on any day of total fire ban.

"The TFS reminds the community that it is a criminal offence to light a fire on a day of total fire ban."

For up-to-date information on fire safety and the latest warnings, click here.

All fires should be reported by dialling 000.


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Man accused of new year rape

Written By miftah nugraha on Selasa, 01 Januari 2013 | 19.55

A 35-YEAR-OLD man is expected to face court later today over an alleged sexual assault in the grounds of Hobart's Parliament House early this morning.

The man has been charged with rape over an incident allegedly involving a 26-year-old woman.

He is expected to appear in an out-of-hours sitting of the Hobart Magistrates Court this evening.

Forensics police examined the scene this afternoon.

The area was cordoned off with crime-scene tape.

Police have appealed for anyone who may have seen a female in distress between 1.30am and 3am today in the vicinity of the Parliament House car park or lawns to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or police on 6230 2111.


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Wild Oats shows its mettle

THE 68th edition of the Sydney-Hobart wrapped up today with the official prize giving at the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania.

Glamour supermaxi Wild Oats walked away with the lion's share of the silverware.

The 100-footer streeted the field on the way to winning line honours in record time, as well as overall handicap, last week.

Skipper Mark Richards said the goal was to make the boat, owned by Queenslander Bob Oatley, even faster as it lined up for a record-equalling seventh line honours title.

"We're always trying to make it go faster -- it's Bob's nature, it's my nature, the whole team's nature -- so we'll see what happens," he said.

"We'll go home (tomorrow) and do what we did last year, prepare ourselves for another Hobart.

"Boxing Day seems to come around quicker and quicker each year, so it will be here before we know it and we'll be aiming for the same sort of result."

None of the four local yachts won divisional prizes, but long-time race servants Rowan Johnston and Peter Campbell, both of Hobart, were each given the Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race Meritorious Service Award.

Speaking at the prize-giving ceremony, Sport and Recreation Minister Michelle O'Byrne said the Sydney to Hobart yacht race was one of the world's great sporting events.

"To compete in this iconic yacht race takes courage, dedication, determination and a big commitment," she said.

"I hope you have enjoyed both the race and the warm Tasmanian hospitality, and I wish you all a safe journey home."


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Kid zone under threat

Young ones having bundles of fun on Parliament House lawns today. Picture: SAM ROSEWARNE

THE popular Kids in the Park program could be lost from the Taste Festival if a committee insists on cutting back Parliament House lawn space and stalls, the event organisers said today.

Festivals and tourism special committee joint chair and Hobart City Council Alderman Peter Sexton said the organisers only found out in September they could go ahead with the full activities this year, leaving some stallholders in limbo.

Now a letter from the Parliament House Joint Committee has warned that only half the lawns could be used next year and the food stalls should be up for discussion.

"If we had only two quadrants, we wouldn't be able to run Kids in the Park. Most of these activities couldn't be put on," Ald Sexton said.

"Kids in the Park is one of the reasons why the overall Taste is so successful.

"We've created a utopia for children and families, as one mother said. It's fully self-contained."

The area does not allow alcohol.

But parliamentary committee chair and Labor MP Michael Polley said 50 per cent of the area must be kept free for the general public.

"We've allowed all their activities, 50 per cent of the area (two quadrants) and a big screen for the cricket," Mr Polley said.

"There's no problem with that.

"They were originally asking for 14 food stalls. The committee is concerned about it becoming too commercialised."

He said the committee would be discussing the number of stalls and whether there was a better option for the future.

The HCC has to apply to the parliamentary committee for approval for use of the lawns.

About 7000 people a day take part in Kids in the Park, which includes many free activities.

Ald Sexton said planning had already started for the next Taste and Kids in the Park.

"We feel it's essential that families have easy access to food and beverages suitable for children without having to cross into the packed Princes Wharf No. 1."

He said the renovations to Princes Wharf No. 1 shed had also restricted the number of food and drink stalls at the main site.


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Ambos issue timely advice

Written By miftah nugraha on Senin, 31 Desember 2012 | 19.55

No one wants to spend the new year in the back of an ambulance.

THINK before you drink is the resounding message from Ambulance Tasmania chief Dominic Morgan as the state prepares to ring in 2013.

Mr Morgan said ending up in the back of an ambulance was never the ideal end to an otherwise fun night.

"So many accidents that happen over the summer festive period are preventable," he said in a statement.

"By planning in advance, many people can not only have a fun night but a safe night as well.

"Much of the ambulance workload, especially on New Year's Eve, involves alcohol-related illness or injury -- whether it be falls, excessive consumption or accidents on the road.

"I particularly urge Tasmanians not to mix drinking and driving -- the potential consequences are too high and entirely preventable.

"It's easy to have a discussion about a designated driver or taxi in advance.

"It's also important to drink plenty of water when consuming alcohol and try to alternate drinks with something non-alcoholic. Eating regularly is also a good idea.

"Our message to the Tasmanian public is have a happy New Year and hopefully one that happens without a hitch or the need for paramedics."

Mr Morgan also reminded the public that calling 000 should be reserved for true emergencies.

The latest figures from the Tasmania Police festive road blitz show 67 motorists have been picked up for drink driving since December 23, with another 20 testing positive for drugs.


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Our own instant millionaire

A DEVONPORT man will enter 2013 as a millionaire after winning $1.4 million in TattsLotto's $30 million Megadraw at the weekend.

The man was one of two Tasmanians to collect winnings in the Megadraw. The other lucky man was from the Launceston suburb of Newstead.

The Devonport man bought his winning unregistered QuickPick entry from Centre Newsagency and Lotto in the Woolworth's Arcade in his home town.

He told Tatts officials it would change his life.

"When I checked the TattsLotto results in the newspaper, I just kept crossing the numbers off one by one. I started thinking 'well, this looks promising'," he said.

"Now I will be able to buy a lot of things I couldn't afford before."

He also intends to travel.

In the 2012 calendar year, 10 Tasmanian have scored division-one prizes totalling more than $11.5 million.


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One dead in Bay of Fires crash

ONE person is dead and two are trapped after a head-on collision at a popular holiday spot in Tasmania's north-east.

Police said the crash happened this afternoon on Gardens Rd, The Gardens, near Swimcart Beach.

The area, near St Helens, is a popular destination over the Christmas and New Year period.

Emergency services are at the scene.

The road is closed and police have advised motorists to avoid the area.

It is Tasmania's third road death over the festive period and takes the 2012 road toll to 32 -- eight more than at the same time last year.

Read more in tomorrow's Mercury.

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Anti-Rebels push anger

Written By miftah nugraha on Minggu, 30 Desember 2012 | 19.55

A CRIMINAL barrister says the Tasmania Police decision to air concerns over the purchase of local real estate by the Sydney-based national boss of the Rebels bikie gang is part of a push to get the State Government to introduce anti-association legislation.

Greg Barns yesterday took issue with police concerns over the purchase of several Tasmanian properties by Rebels Motorcycle Club national president Alessio Emmanuel "Alex" Vella, revealed in the Mercury.

Police drug squad boss John Arnold, who is Tasmania's representative on the Australian Federal Police's anti-Rebels taskforce Attero, said the Rebels played a key role in the distribution of methamphetamine in Tasmania.

Detective Inspector Arnold said the acquisition of Tasmanian properties by Mr Vella was concerning and he encouraged the public to make reports about Rebels' activities to the Crime Stoppers hotline.

Mr Barns, an Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman who has acted for a number of bikies, said the comments by Inspector Arnold were worrying.

"The comments by John Arnold, a police officer involved, are extremely disturbing. He is effectively saying to the public that if you see people who you think are members of bikie gangs, ring Crime Stoppers," Mr Barns said.

"It reminds us of the days when ASIO used to tell us to dob in a communist. It's an outrageous statement on his part.

"John Arnold and Tasmania Police seem to be saying there is some criminal conduct involved in the purchase of the real estate."

Mr Barns said Inspector Arnold's comments about the Rebels were part of a Tasmania Police campaign to get "draconian" anti-association laws introduced in Tasmania.

The controversial laws introduced in other states allow organisations such as bikie gangs to be classed as illegal and make it an offence for members to associate with each other.

However, in a number of instances the laws have been overturned by the High Court after they were found to be in breach of the Constitution.

"The laws are draconian ... they can be used against environmental groups or against any group that the Government doesn't like," said Mr Barns, who is a Mercury columnist.

"There's no evidence to suggest that Tasmania has a problem with major crime, or no evidence to suggest that bikies are responsible for major crime.

"The comments of Inspector Arnold are outrageous and completely undermine the right to the presumption of innocence that all members of the community have, including bikies."


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Burma crash duo vow to return

THEY escaped the burning wreckage of a plane crash in Burma, but Tasmanian Stuart Benson and South Australian girlfriend Anna Bartsch plan to return to the country to complete their unfinished holiday.

The couple arrived in Australia yesterday morning, greeted by relieved family and friends, four days after they walked away from the charred ruins of a flight that crash-landed in a paddock in Heho in central Burma, killing two people and injuring 11.

Speaking at Adelaide Airport, they said they were eager to go back and see the sights they missed when their two-week getaway was cut short on Christmas Day.

"There are a few more sights we're keen to see and we had a great time it's an amazing country," Ms Bartsch said.

"It certainly hasn't put us off going back and we hope it doesn't put other people off exploring the region."

Ms Bartsch, 31, and Mr Benson, 32, said they were thankful to arrive in Adelaide and excited by the prospect of some home comforts.

"I was a bit nervous boarding the flight from Singapore but I'm just glad it's all over," Mr Benson said.

"The tail-end of the trip (in Burma) was meant to be three days on a beach, so I'm looking forward to taking up that opportunity in the next trip."

The couple left Adelaide on December 18 and had been scheduled to return to South Australia tomorrow.

They were sitting at the back of the plane that crashed about 3km short of Heho airport.

Ms Bartsch escaped with a few minor sprains and Mr Benson sustained back pains.

"I don't think I've ever really had an experience when I've thought 'this is about it'," Mr Benson said.

"We were stuck inside for a bit while the plane was burning, at which point things were not looking great.

"The back injuries I've got are very common to what we'd see in the rollover of a Targa car.

"The wings coming off show what an impact it was."

Officials in Burma are investigating the cause of the crash, which happened when the Air Bagan Fokker 100 jet tried to land in heavy fog.

On Friday the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade revised the number of Australians in the plane crash from five to six. They included three Queenslanders and one dual-nationality citizen who did not live in Australia, a department spokesman said.

Mr Benson said the crash had replayed in his mind since Tuesday and that talking to other survivors about the ordeal had helped him cope.

"It was in the days following that it really hit home," he said.

"We were seeing all the photos come through and realised how bad it actually was."

The couple's luggage was destroyed. They have received some compensation and expect further reimbursement.

Mr Benson plans to return to Hobart to see his family in coming weeks.


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City gets Taste of traffic jam

TOP TASTES: Joe Bennett of Get Shucked Oyster Farm and Will Bignell of Tasmanian Highland Cheeses enjoy their fare. Their combined stall, which also included Craigow Wines/Tap Barley Beer/Belgrove Estate Highland Whisky was named best stall for 2012.

TASTE Festival organisers were unapologetic about parking problems yesterday when a perfect storm of multiple events created traffic snarls in and around Hobart's Salamanca precinct.

Tens of thousands converged for the Taste's second day, which coincided with the weekly Salamanca Market plus the Sydney-Hobart yacht race and the annual Antique Fair at City Hall.

The events bonanza created city traffic jams and along Sandy Bay and Hampden roads.

Long queues at the carparks, toilets and ATMs were inevitable because of the huge crowds.

Hobart City Council festival co-chairman Peter Sexton urged patrons to use common sense when travelling to events by organising shared transport and abandoning ideas of parking next to the venue.

"Parking is always an issue because people want to park at the front door," Ald Sexton said.

There were 800 free carparks in council's Argyle St and Centrepoint parks plus 700 at the Park and Ride in the Domain.

But he admitted there were signage problems with the Domain carpark, which was hidden behind the Moscow Circus.

Much of the Domain remained empty yesterday. He said more car parking and better communication would be a feature of next year's Taste.

He said a fraction of Taste patrons needed transport because many stayed in or close to the site.

"At any major event in the world, it's not possible to get there you have to use the bus or walk," he said.

Southern District Police Inspector Grant Twining said anyone who thought they could park close to such a big event was naive.

Insp Twining said the council had done a great job with Taste's traffic.

"It's congested simply because there's thousands of people here," he said. "You can get a park in Barrack Street five minutes away."

Police also received a number of queries from tourists unable to hail taxis yesterday.

The Salamanca taxi rank had been relocated to Kirksway Place and outside Customs House during the Taste.

More roads will be closed today between 9.30-10.30am for the Race to The Taste Fun Run.

Police have advised motorists to avoid Upper Domain Rd, Davies Ave, McVilley Drive,Tasman Highway, Davey St, Argyle St, Morrison St and Castray Esplanade.


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