Fight to contain bushfire as hot conditions continue

Fires are burning in Victoria's west where 30 communities are under threat.

Fires are burning in Victoria's west where 30 communities are under threat. Photo: ABC screenshot

Dozens of Victorian communities have been ordered to evacuate after a sudden wind change pushed a huge out-of-control blaze in their direction.

Thousands of residents from almost 30 communities in the state’s west near Ballarat were told to “leave immediately” overnight Thursday.

There are early reports of homes and sheds destroyed as news trickles in from the fire front on Friday morning.

“We’re getting early reports, unfortunately, of some home losses and as well as multiple sheds,” Country Fire Authority’s (CFA) chief officer Jason Heffernan told the ABC.

“We do expect to see significant shed loss, stock loss and fencing.”

About 1000 firefighters were battling the blaze on Thursday evening including those operating 15 water bombing aircraft.

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan said the expected wind change had forced communities to the north and east of Beaufort onto high alert.

“If you’re in these areas, the safest thing you can do is leave,” she posted on X.

Victorian Country Fire Authority chief officer Jason Heffernan expected there would be a “large operation” on Friday to contain control lines and reinforcements would arrive as soon as possible.

“We will be expecting and seeing more firefighters join the firefight in the coming days,” he told reporters late on Thursday.

Heffernan said the fight was “not over” for Beaufort, Lexton, Raglan and surrounding communities north-west of Ballarat.

No properties have been reported as lost but a wind change from about 6pm caused major concern as authorities forecast conditions would not ease for six hours.

The bushfire forced the closure of the Western Highway between the major towns of Ballarat and Ararat, in addition to a train line and bus routes in the area.

Emergency authorities said early on Friday that the bushfire was heading towards Avoca.

The wild weather left more than 2100 Victorian customers without electricity, in addition to more than 600 still without power following storms last week, according to the state government.

Prisoners with health conditions that make them vulnerable to smoke have been taken away from Langi Kal Kal Prison, which is near the fire.

Firefighters have also been battling bushfires in several parts of Tasmania, with an emergency warning issued for the Dee community and surrounds over a fire in the remote central highlands.

A high fire danger alert has been issued for parts of central and south western NSW, in addition to the Greater Hunter region.

Hot conditions on Friday are likely to be focused on Northern and Eastern NSW, according to Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Dean Narramore.

He said the mercury was set to reach mid to high 30s in Sydney before widespread thunderstorm activity and a cool change in the evening.

A heatwave warning is current for Western Australia’s Pilbara, North Interior and South Interior Districts and Gascoyne regions.

Cyclone to reform

In Western Australia, ex-tropical cyclone Lincoln is expected to gather strength and re-form on Friday as it tracks southwest along the Pilbara coast, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

The bureau predicts it will cross the coast as a category 2 system near Coral Bay on Saturday.

“As it makes landfall that’s when we will see the most intense impacts,” Meteorologist Miriam Bradbury said on Thursday.

“Destructive wind gusts up to 140km/h are possible and very heavy rainfall that could lead to flash flooding.”

Communities in the state’s northwest are bracing for the arrival of a massive weather system that is expected to slam into the coast.

Bradbury said wind gusts up to 100km/h that were strong enough to bring down trees and power lines were possible on Friday.

A cyclone blue alert has been issued for the area from Mardie south to Wooramel, with residents urged to prepare for severe weather, destructive winds and potential flooding.

Multiple flood watches have been issued for catchments along the Pilbara and Gascoyne coastlines and urban search and rescue specialists are among the dozens of emergency service personnel deployed to communities likely to be affected by the cyclone.

Authorities expect the North West Coastal Highway to close at various locations because of flooding and have said some communities could be isolated for days.

Lincoln crossed the Northern Territory coast late last week as a category 1 tropical cyclone from the Gulf of Carpentaria before moving inland across the Top End and into WA as a storm.

It dumped heavy rain across a wide area triggering flood watches and warnings in northwest Queensland, the NT and northern WA before moving offshore again on Wednesday.

-with AAP

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