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Huon Valley fires update – extent of damage still to be assessed

The Ta Ann Mill at Southwood and its surrounding plantations were a high priority for firefighters following widespread fire in the Huon Valley last week. There was some superficial damage to buildings as an ember attack in the wake of the fire front damaged a skylight and entered the building, which was fortunately extinguished by fire crews. Sources: Compiled by Huon News and Timberbiz

“Our team members, Tasmanian Fire Service and Sustainable Timbers Tasmania fire crews, together, fought bravely to save the forestry processing facilities at Southwood, and protect many dozens of long-term jobs in the Huon community,” said Neville Smith Forest Products Group (NSFP) CEO Andrew Walker.

However, it is unknown how long the facility will remain closed.

“The full extent of the damage will be assessed when emergency warnings for the area have been lifted and the threat of fire eases,” said Mr Walker.

“The NSFP Southwood operation will remain closed until such a time that the immediate risk of bushfire has passed, damage has been fully assessed and the site has been declared safe as a workplace, and electricity infrastructure and services are restored to the site,” he said.

Mr Walker said Sustainable Timber Tasmania would conduct an assessment on the production forest estate in the South.

“All NSFP Southwood employees will be paid in full during this period of closure, and staff kept up-to-date with information as it comes to hand.

“NSFP is committed to the Huon region and Tasmania. We will be doing everything in our power to re-open our Southwood operations, as on-site and medical assistance was available, including filtered air for those who were experiencing respiratory difficulties.”

Politicians support the fire damaged Huon

Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman said the Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments were working together to support those impacted by the bushfires.

“Given the bushfires may continue for some weeks, there is potential for people’s income to be affected for a prolonged period of time,” said Premier Hodgman.

People eligible for DR A can access income assistance for up to 13 weeks, equivalent to the maximum rates of Newstart Allowance or Youth Allowance.

Prime Minister Morrison was in Hobart to meet the firefighters and aircraft pilots battling the blazes before heading to Huonville to talk to business owners and residents, and touring the Huon Valley Council’s evacuation centre at the PCYC.

The Prime Minister talked to those who had been living at the evacuation centre, as well as Geeveston business owner, Fiona McAlpine who expressed her concerns about the long ranging economic implications of the prolonged shut down of the Huon Valley.

Mr Morrison urged all Australians to support the Huon Valley economic recovery by visiting the region.

The Prime Minister praised the efforts of the state and local government, as well as volunteers who have been working around the clock to control the fires and maintain the safety and comfort of evacuees.

Both he and Mr Shorten committed federal support to ensure the tourism and broader business recovery of the Huon Valley in the coming weeks, months and even years.

Mr Morrison said more than 1500 firefighters had rotated through the crews who were on the ground and in the air across Tasmania over the last two weeks, with more to come as the fight to control the fires continues.

He also thanked the volunteers, those who have opened their homes to friends and family, and business owners who have allowed employees time off to support the volunteer effort.

“Here in the Huon, we’re seeing Australia at its best, and I want to commend everyone for the volunteer effort they’ve put in.”