9 Jan 2013

NZ sends crews as Tasmanian fires flare

5:52 am on 9 January 2013

Tasmanian fire crews worked into the night in strong winds to contain dozens of bushfires, although the immediate threat to some communities has passed.

Strong winds have fanned established fires and new blazes have started, further stretching fire-fighting resources.

The Forcett fire that has already devastated the Tasman Peninsula in the state's south-east has moved in two directions - to the south towards Eaglehawk Neck and to the east towards Marion Bay.

The alert for the north-west Montumana blaze has been upgraded to emergency level while a watch-and-act alert is in place for Mathinna in the northeast.

A 10,000 hectare fire at Lake Repulse is still uncontrolled, but has remained relatively steady through the day.

It's emerged that 100 buildings - including the school and a sawmill - in the settlement of Dunalley were destroyed by the Forcett fire at the weekend.

A camper is expected to be prosecuted for starting the Lake Repulse fire.

Tasmanian police say the number of people unaccounted for remains at about 100 because as they check people off, they are contacted with more names, the ABC reports.

A team of 20 Victorian police officers helped to search houses, with more than 550 homes, about 100 in ruins, covered so far.

The revived fire is bearing down on communities on the Tasman Peninsula.

The fire service says forecast strong winds are pushing the fire front.

It says it is now too late for householders to go to the refuge centre in Nubeena, but people can shelter in well-prepared homes.

Stranded visitors were earlier escorted off the peninsula by the police, with five convoys, totalling about 395 cars and 750 people, moving out of the Nubeena area in 24 hours.

Other convoys with essential supplies were being escorted in, with the arterial Arthur Highway remaining closed.

Police say about 500 cars and 1500 people remain at Nubeena, which has been a haven for thousands during the fires.

New Zealanders help

Searches of more than 550 houses on the peninsula have not found any bodies.

About 40 bushfires continue to burn across the state, with concerns also held for uncontrolled blazes at Montumana in the northwest and Lake Repulse in the Derwent Valley.

The dozen specialist New Zealand firefighters being sent to Tasmania to help control its wildfires will be people with experience working in remote, steep country.

National Rural Fire Officer, Murray Dudfield says two rural fire crews will be flown to Hobart by Wednesday.

"Because of the remote areas that they'll be working in, those firefighters will be sourced from the likes of the Department of Conservation and the forestry companies," Mr Dudfield told AAP on Tuesday.

He said they will be putting fires out and dampening down those that are already out.

If a request is received from New South Wales, where bush fire risks are extremely high on Tuesday, Mr Dudfield said New Zealand crews will be sent there to help.