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Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has paid tribute to CFA volunteers and other fire fighting crews still battling a major bushfire south-east of Rosedale.

While more than 10,000 hectares of land have been burnt, including 2000 hectares of valuable pine plantations, Mr Chester said the situation could have been worse.

“Tackling this fire in some of the worst bushfire weather conditions we’ve experienced since Black Saturday was a huge effort and I want to thank all fire fighting personnel and the support crews who made it possible,” Mr Chester said.

“In addition to local CFA volunteers, DELWP fire-fighters, HVP staff, private contractors and a number of aerial assets have been directed at controlling the blaze and minimising losses.

“Safety is always the highest priority and I’m pleased that there has been no loss of life or major injuries despite the seriousness of the situation.

“We’ve learnt a lot as a community since the devastating loss of lives on Black Saturday and it was good to see families evacuating from the impacted area when conditions deteriorated.”

Mr Chester urged people to continue keeping an eye on the weather conditions and watch for any further advice from emergency authorities.

“The weather has been much cooler and calmer since Friday’s searing temperatures and the strong winds,” Mr Chester said. “While there is no immediate threat to the community, we need to remember the fire is not yet under control.”

Mr Chester has also encouraged locals to remain vigilant and fire aware over the summer months.

“It’s too early to comment on the cause of this fire, but authorities regard it as suspicious and investigations are continuing,” Mr Chester said.

“Fires can start naturally, by accidents and neglect, or the deliberate action of arsonists. We all need to make sure we are fire smart by minimising the chance of accidental outbreaks from campfires, burning off, or the use of machinery and tools.

“There’s a long, hot summer ahead of us and drought conditions across parts of Gippsland have left us exposed to an increased risk of fire.

“We can help prevent arsonists by remaining vigilant and reporting any suspicious activity in our community. Write down the details of vehicle number plates or any information that might help police track down the imbeciles who take perverse enjoyment from deliberately lighting bushfires.

“It is a cowardly act which threatens lives and properties and we need to help police by keeping a close watch in our own communities.”

To report illegal activity, call Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.

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