Fire upgraded to emergency warning, total fire ban for Sunday


Emergency services are bracing for extreme fire conditions with the temperature set to top 40C in parts of Victoria, as a total fire ban has been called for the entire state amid fears that volatile conditions already fanning eight fires could worsen.

Emergency Management Victoria are urging people to remain alert and monitor their local area through the EMV app, website or radio, with concerns that fires could jump containment lines.

An emergency warning has been issued for Hepburn, where people are being advised to leave immediately, as the northern section of Hepburn Springs could be impacted within the next two hours.

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Fires are currently less than one kilometre from homes, as over 80 firefighters continue to battle the blaze and build containment lines to protect the town.

There are concerns that a strong south-westerly wind change this afternoon could add to the fire danger.

A watch and act remains in place for Grantville and surrounds, where over 230 firefighters completed containment lines and put out black spots overnight.

An EMV spokeswoman said a night fire bombing trial, in its first operational year, was also successful overnight.

The Bass Hwy has reopened with a reduced speed limit and the information centre at Grantville Transaction Centre will reopen from 12pm today.

A fire threatening Melbourne’s water supply at Thomson dam had low activity overnight, with 20 firefighters consolidating containment lines and monitoring hot spots.

After a maximum pushing 40C across much of the state, bringing northerly winds, a wind change during the afternoon and evening will bring a sharp temperature drop of 10 to 12C and squally southerly winds.

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Richard Carlyon said the change, expected to hit Melbourne between 3-4pm, would be a “critical time for firefighting,” due to the recipe of high wind speeds and a new fire front.

“The fire front can change direction, but also we’re expecting some strong squalls,” he said.

With southerly winds expected across the state tomorrow, Mr Carlyon said planned firefighting across the state would become much easier.

After the cool change comes through, Melbourne is expected to have a shower or two, with the chance of a thunderstorm.

Earlier, fellow BOM senior meteorologist Richard Russell said a cool change would see temperatures drop by 15C degrees in less than an hour Sunday afternoon.

However, the change will bring dangerous winds across Melbourne between 4pm to 6pm and an hour later in Gippsland where fires are already burning, as well as lightning and thunderstorms in the state’s east.

Another watch and act message was issued for Basalt, Dry Diggings, Elevated Plains, Hepburn, Hepburn Springs, Mount Franklin, Shepherds Flat after a grass and scrub fire started in Elevated Plains on Saturday night.

The blaze was initially listed as an emergency warning but was later downgraded.

Flames came within 500m of properties but there were protections in place that prevented the fire getting closer, an Emergency Management Victoria spokesman said.

With four areas of the state deemed to be at severe risk on Sunday, CFA chief officer Steve Warrington said all Victorians needed to be on alert as crews could not be stretched any further.

“We have eight major fires going right across this state at the moment which is already drawing down on our resources. As such, we don’t want any more fires,” Mr Warrington said.

“We expect more lightning, that comes without rain, so that suggests to us we can expect more starts in the state (on Sunday).”

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Mr Warrington urged people to arm themselves with information, download the Victorian Emergency App to gain information at the same time as fire trucks, and listen to radio updates.

“(Sunday) is a really concerning day for us and it s time for people to get the information they need,” he said.

“As we move closely to the anniversary of Black Saturday it is timely that I remind people the reality here is that 173 people passed away, (we lost) 2000 homes on that terrible day. We only had 650 trucks going to every fire in the state.

“People need to do their own maths here … we will do what we can with some of the most professional, battle-hardened firefighters the world has got … but now it is up to the community to get the message right and the conditions.

“The decision that you make on any given day will determine whether you live or die.”

VicRoads released an alert warning that the Mornington Peninsula Freeway is closed in both directions between Arthurs Seat Road and Lonsdale Street due to fire in the area.

“Motorists are advised to avoid non-essential travel to the area to allow emergency services to continue their work.”

“The Nepean Highway should be used to detour around the closure.”





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