Exclusive: First Look At The Road To Mallacoota Since The Bushfires

The small town of Mallacoota, the epicentre of Victoria's bushfire crisis, is beginning to show signs that it's on the road to recovery but there's a long way to go.

Reporters have been allowed to return to the town in the state's East Gippsland after it was gutted by fire.

The drive to Mallacoota provided a grim glimpse of what has been left behind, with blackened trees lining kilometres of road along the Princes Highway.

The region has long been considered the place to go if you're seeking a fun holiday in Victoria.

While Mallacoota has a population of just over 1000, during Easter and Christmas that typically increases to over 8000.



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Residents of a rural Victorian village claim they are "prisoners in our own town", stuck in their small community and unable to leave due to road closures.

Australian Defence Force (ADF) Armoured vehicle personnel carrier seen on the highway near Mallacoota on January 15. Image: Getty
Burnt property seen in Mallacoota on January 15. Image: Getty

When 10 News First arrived at the town on Wednesday, it was easy to see why thousands choose to flock to the area for their summer breaks.

The rolling hills opposite Mallacoota Harbour, the pristine water and a sense of calm can still be found in the town that's located six hours from the nearest capital city.

About 1200 people who were trapped at Mallacoota boarded navy vessels to evacuate the coastal Victorian town that was cut off by raging bushfire. Image: AAP

But so many people were forced to pack up and leave the area during the peak of the fire crisis.

Tourism operators hope that the same volume of people who fled during the fires will come back to stay in the region eventually.

It's thought that the pictures of the black and red skies that were shared across the world, as well as the young boy who left the town on a dinghy, will remain in our minds for many years to come.

Bushfire Crisis


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A red sky above Mallacoota in East Gippsland, Victoria, Saturday, January 4. Image: AAP

Some residents who lost homes - and left by naval ship HMAS Choules- have returned already.

They've faced the aftermath of a town crippled by fire. Along a street in Mallacoota’s outskirts - many houses were destroyed, but just as many, if not more, have managed to stay standing.

Sadly the colour black will remain a feature in East Gippsland for some time to come.

Image: 10 News First
Roads remain closed in parts of Victoria due to danger left since the bushfires. Image: 10 News First

But a positive sign is that there are already signs of regeneration in the area, less than a month after the fires.

Green grass, something many take for granted in a hot summer, has arrived in parts of ravaged Mallacoota.

It isn't going to make up for the tourist dollars the region lost this summer, but it's a sign that recovery will happen.

Clean-Up Continues

The 10 News First crew travelled in an army convoy to Mallacoota in an armoured PMV Bushmaster, optimised for war and suited to off-road missions. The armoured plating can withstand an improvised explosive device.

With the threat of falling trees at any minute, it’s the perfect truck to safely transport reserve troops and supplies in.

An aerial view of blackened parts of East Gippsland. Image: 10 News First

The 10 News crew were allowed into the area to show the public why it is still too dangerous to reopen some of the roads.

Part of one of Australia's major highways, the A1 Princes Highway, remains closed because it's too dangerous to drive along.

“Mum and Dad couldn’t drive this road yet in their Volkswagen," Army Reserve Major General Jason Beck said.



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A small business owner in one of the nation's bushfire-affected areas has issued a rallying cry for Australians to "travel in their own backyard for the sake of the country" as small-town communities work to rebuild.

The journey into the town was slow at times on Wednesday, as brave crews rushed to clear fallen trees along the way.

It’s the same work that killed Victorian forest firefighter Bill Slade, who was farewelled by colleagues and family at a funeral service in Wonthaggi.

Australian Defence Force (ADF) personal take a break after arriving in Mallacoota on January 15. Image: Getty

Forest loggers, the Department of Environment Water Land and Planning and army workers are working hard to make the area safe again.

In just three weeks they’ve scoured hundreds of kilometres to create safe breaks between the road and the trees to help save lives.

But it will be some time before the area is safe for tourists, but when it is, there are high hopes that they will come back to Mallacoota.