Aussie film world mostly escapes fire

Victoria inferno has claimed at least 173 lives

The screen industry in the Australian state of Victoria has so far largely escaped the ravages of the country’s worst-ever natural disaster, the voracious weekend bushfires that have claimed at least 173 lives.

Vet TV presenter Brian Naylor, who anchored the Network Nine News for 20 years before his retirement in 1998, and his wife Moiree are confirmed dead with the death toll expected to rise; veteran “Blue Heelers” thesp Reg Evans is among the missing.

Victoria has long promoted its diverse pristine natural locations within close proximity of the capital, Melbourne, as a reason for shooting in the state.

Now Nick McMahon, CEO of TV production company Crawfords Australia, which has an eight-acre studio complex in the city, says the ferocity of the fires, including the blaze in the rain forests near Kinglake, will alter production plans for years.

“It’s going to take a long while for these places to recover because the timber growth was so old, but there are other areas,” he told Daily Variety.

Fires have burned some 1,000 homes and thousands of acres since flaring up at the end of last week, fueled by high winds and following a week of temperatures above 100 degrees.

On Tuesday they continued to threaten towns north and east of Melbourne.

Towns destroyed or partially burned include the popular filming locations of Flowerdale, where Paramount lensed “Charlotte’s Web” in 2005, and Marysville, where TV movie “Little Oberon” was shot the previous year.

Production of Southern Star TV skein “Bed of Roses” is unaffected despite the use of locations in Gippsland near where some fires are burning. Other productions are Melbourne-based and unaffected because strong winds are driving the blaze away from the city.