Gisborne fire was a close call

NEWS: Gisborne relief centre re-opened

TWO houses were destroyed and more than 500 were under threat in a fire that tore through the Riddells Creek and Gisborne area on Sunday.

Premier Denis Napthine praised the efforts of firefighters and emergency service workers, saying that while the day was tragic for those who lost their homes, it could have been a lot worse.

"This fire went right to the edge of Riddells Creek," he said.

"If the fire had got into Riddells Creek and got onto Mount Macedon it would have been an absolute disaster."

Firefighters were battling severe winds, which changed direction several times, making for "extreme conditions and extreme pressure".

He praised the coordination of numerous services working together, including the CFA, MFB, police, Parks Victoria and Queensland fire services, which also provided assistance.

Riddells Creek CFA firefighter Toby Tresise said the fire was contained on Sutherlands Road, about 150 metres from the town.

He said Riddells Creek residents were holding up well.

"The community's been terrific," he said. 

"The message about the risks of fires is slowly sinking in."

He said most people had been well prepared, with one third of the town having evacuated before the fire broke out. Two thirds of residents stayed to actively defend their properties.

All together, 2500 hectares were burnt.

The fire was contained on Sunday about 9.20pm and the CFA was busy blacking out yesterday afternoon.

Mr Tresise said people were supporting each other and staying positive.

"The town has rallied," he said. "There's been a lot of community spirit."

Mr Tresise said the Red Cross had organised temporary accommodation and clothes for a man who lost his home.

"He's got the clothes he had on his back and that's it," Mr Tresise said.

Wayne Paterson, who owns The Telegraph Hotel in central Gisborne, said the town was "fairly calm and casual".

"We never felt threatened because the helicopters were doing such a good job," he said.

He and his younger brothers evacuated their mother, who lives about one kilometre from the fire scene, and a couple of his mates from Riddells Creek stayed at his pub from 4.30pm to 9.30pm.

He described his fire plan as "stay and drink".

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