New Zealand — Thunderstorms have brought partial relief – but also more fire – for firefighters battling blazes across Victoria.
Lightning strikes are blamed for two spot fires burning alongside the massive Grampians bushfire, which has now claimed more than 125,000 hectares in Victoria’s west.
The Country Fire Authority (CFA) says more than 1000 firefighters, and 14 aircraft, are battling the blaze but it continues to burn out of control despite intense efforts.
“Thunderstorms in the area have made weather conditions unpredictable as well as increasing the likelihood of new fires through lightning strikes,” the CFA’s website states on Friday.
“Two lightning strikes have already resulted in fires at Mount Arapiles and Rockland Reservoir, which firefighters are currently attacking.”
Eight communities, including the largely evacuated tourist town of Halls Gap, remain on high alert for falling embers on Friday.
The perimeter of the fire spans 350km, and the CFA reports it has claimed 24 homes while 67 farms have lost stock including more than 60,000 sheep and 500 cattle.
Meanwhile, in Victoria’s east, the Erica-Moondarra fire is also entering into an unpredictable phase, the CFA says.
“Some rain activity is expected (today),” the website states.
“If thunderstorms develop them erratic wind behaviour is also likely.”
The temperature is also forecast to drop from Thursday’s high 40s degrees celsius to the low 30s on Friday.
The fire has blacked out more than 14,500 hectares of bushland and it continues to threaten eight communities.
“The fire remains active along its southern edge near pine plantations,” the CFA says, adding more than 280 firefighters, and nine aircraft, are attempting to bring it under control.
The fire at Kinglake, north of Melbourne, also remains active but firefighters have consolidated containment lines overnight.
“Patchy rain was experienced in the area last night by significant hotspots and fire activity remain,” the CFA states.
It has claimed 1200 hectares, and residents in Kinglake and nearby Castella remain on high alert for falling embers.
The Anakie-Brisbane Ranges fire, which had threatened homes in Melbourne’s south-west, is on Friday listed as under control.
The fire has claimed 7,264 hectares.
The series of bushfires, many burning since last weekend, have claimed three lives.
Mourners will gather in the central Victorian town of Campbells Creek on Monday to farewell volunteer firefighter Trevor Day, who was killed when his fire truck rolled during a bushfire north-east of Melbourne.
The bushfires also claimed the lives of a Victorian father and son, who died when they crashed their car in bushland and it was engulfed by the flames.