A bulldozer operator has died while helping fight a bushfire in Victoria’s Gippsland region, bringing the work-related death toll to three in the last six days.
The 69-year-old man died late on Saturday at the fires near Gelantipy, Forest Fire Management Victoria’s chief fire officer Chris Hardman said on Monday.
He was working on earth breaks on private property for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning so that firefighters could battle a blaze on public land.
WorkSafe believes the man lost control of his 4WD utility while driving down a steep embankment and was thrown from his vehicle when it rolled, suffering fatal injuries.
“It’s the worst possible day we could have as a team, personally it’s just a horrible, hollow feeling,” Hardman told reporters on Monday.
“We’ve lost somebody that’s come to help us and I hope and pray that we don’t lose any more people.”
The man was from the East Gippsland region and has helped fire crews in the past.
Victoria Police are preparing a report for the coroner and WorkSafe is also investigating.
Fires continue to burn in Victoria’s east, despite rain and snow in some areas.
Incident controller Peter Brick said while there had been cooler conditions on the weekend, the underlying drought means fire activity could quickly ramp up when the warmer weather returns.
“We can’t reiterate enough how dry the land is across Gippsland at the moment,” he told reporters.
“Now’s the time to prepare.”
While fires burn, parts of the state have been dumped with snow in a chilly start to summer.
Falls Creek received snowfall overnight and on Monday morning, as did Mount Buller and Mount Hotham.
The Great Alpine Road between Harrietville and Hotham had to be cleared of snow on Monday morning and drivers were warned more was expected to come.
By Kaitlyn Offer