Extreme fire warnings as southern heatwave continues

Extreme fire danger warnings have been issued in four states.

Extreme fire danger warnings have been issued in four states. Photo: AAP

Evacuations have been ordered in regional Victorian towns on a day of dry heat, strong gusty winds and extreme fire dangers in four states.

Communities west of Ballarat were told to “leave immediately” as a fire burnt out of control, potentially impacting Bayindeen, Buangor, Middle Creek and Mount Cole.

CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said the fire was “quite large” and would “rapidly grow” as significant wind gusts whipped through the trees.

Temperatures were expected to top 40C in northwest Victoria, with storms expected to bring 80km/h winds and dry lightning into the afternoon.

“It is an ever-changing situation, the temperatures are hot, the winds are blowing,” he warned on ABC TV.

“We haven’t seen that frontal system move through yet and communities near that fire need to get ready to take action now.”

The fire was burning on Bayindeen-Rocky Road and travelling in a south-easterly direction towards Anderson Road, Coxs Road, Ferntree Gully Road.

“Leaving immediately is the safest option, before conditions become too dangerous,” Emergency Victoria said.

The warning area was about 50km from where a blaze destroyed 45 properties days earlier.

Lightning strikes were the big concern for fire authorities, particularly after most of last week’s fires were sparked by strikes, State Emergency Services Minister Jaclyn Symes said.

Cool change

A cool change is expected to sweep through on Thursday afternoon, bringing storms into southwest Victoria in the afternoon and reaching the northeast overnight.

But the temperature relief could mean “peak” fire danger for communities because of the winds.

“We still have a number of hours where communities and firefighters will be challenged by these really hot northerly winds but we need to remember there is that wind change coming through,” said Heffernan.

“While it will bring cool temperatures, it will bring increased wind speeds from the west and south-west up to potentially 80km/h or more and that will be the real peak danger time for communities.”

Senior BOM meteorologist Christie Johnson said conditions would not be as strong or widespread as a week earlier, when bushfires in the Grampians National Park destroyed 46 properties and razed more than 6000ha of bush and farmland.

States on alert

Extreme fire warnings have also been issued for parts of Tasmania, WA and SA.

A watch and act warning is in place for a bushfire in central Tasmania, with emergency services urging those nearby to prepare to leave.

Similar advice has been issued for people near another blaze northwest of Hobart.

WA has total fire bans in place for multiple regions and part of the Eyre Highway is closed shutting off the western side of the Nullarbor, as an out of control blaze west of Balladonia burns into a third week.

Emergency services urge people at the Balladonia Roadhouse to go west towards Norseman.

SA’s Country Fire Service has declared an extreme fire risk in the Mid North, the Murraylands, Riverland and the Upper and Lower South East regions.

Fire aftermath

A week later, firefighters are still working to contain one of the blazes near Pomonal, where fire destroyed 45 properties.

In Victoria’s east, wind gusts of up to 130km/h smashed transmission infrastructure, cutting power to 530,000 homes and businesses and leaving 37 houses uninhabitable.

About 680 customers remain off power as of Thursday morning.

On Wednesday, Victoria’s State Emergency Service chief officer Tim Wiebusch warned people to be aware of falling branches and avoid unnecessary travel in strong winds.

“Tie down loose outdoor items including outdoor furniture and trampolines and park your car undercover or away from trees,” he said.

“Keep up to date with warnings, and be mindful of elevated risks.”

-with AAP

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