Emergency crews fighting to contain a massive bushfire in north-west Victoriawill remain on high alert for the rest of the week with high winds expected tocontinue.
Almost 100 firefighters were tonight continuing to battle the blaze, whichhas swept through the Murray-Sunset National Park in remote Mallee country,510km north-west of Melbourne, burning out more than 14,500 hectares.
The blaze jumped fuel reduction burn lines on Sunday and quickly rippedthrough the scrub, fanned by dry northerly winds and at one point threatenedprivate property, Victoria’s Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE)said.
“We had high winds come through yesterday and today which pushed thefire in a south-easterly direction and at one stage it had the potential to goonto private property,” DSE spokeswoman Rachel May said.
“However, the wind swung around again today, pushing the fire back intothe park.”
A front potentially 15km to 20km wide had begun to develop but the threat tothe nearest township, Murrayville, about 44km away, had for the time beingdropped, she said.
The Bureau of Meteorology said tonight that a cooler change and increasedhumidity were expected later in the week but the high winds would remain.
“There’s a fairly strong wind front due on Thursday night and throughinto Friday morning and that could be a problem,” senior weather forecasterTerry Ryan said.
The Murray-Sunset bushfire is one of the biggest among 140 blazes which havebeen reported across Victoria today.
Country Fire Authority (CFA) officials said today the state’s bushfire seasonhad arrived six weeks earlier than expected and the drought had not helpedmatters.
“We’ve had a rainfall deficit, there is not much water lying around andfire is taking off under these conditions,” CFA deputy chief officer GrahamFountain told AAP.
“The community needs to start preparing but in doing so please make surethat you prepare under the right conditions and with the right resources inplace,” Mr Fountain said.
“Unfortunately today a number of these fires are as a result ofburn-offs.”