USA — Community anxiety is growing in Gippsland’s Latrobe Valley as a huge bushfire in the Strzelecki Ranges, east of Melbourne, continues to burn.
Meanwhile authorities have confirmed more homes have been lost in Victoria’s bushfires.
About 250 residents have gathered at a meeting with emergency authorities in Churchill.
Authorities say at least 20 homes have now been lost in the fire-ravaged Strzelecki Ranges between Darlimurla and Boolarra.
So far the fire has engulfed more than 6,000 hectares.
The direct threat to Boolarra and Yinnar was downgraded this morning but the Country Fire Authority (CFA) is warning residents to stay on high alert for ember attacks.
Darlimurla, at the eastern front of the fire, also remains on high alert for spot fires caused by flaming embers.
With a southerly wind change predicted, the Latrobe Valley faces that same threat.
The CFA’s incident controller, Ben Rankin, says firefighters will face major challenges this afternoon.
“The Met Bureau has indicated to us that we need to be prepared for it to vary between south-east and south-west, so we could have that fluctuation across from the east to west, but always from the south throughout the day today,” he said.
“So that’s what we’ll be working on and we’ll be trying to take precautions to ensure that we minimise the run-off fire caused by any of that southerly wind.”
The chief executive of Loy Yang Power, Ian Nethercote, says the Latrobe Valley generators are also on high alert.
“Our major concern at the moment is whether or not the fire encroaches onto some of the transmission lines, and therefore has perhaps some impact on our ability to keep generation going to the grid,” he said
Victorian Premier John Brumby has visited the Latrobe Valley, where he was briefed on the fire threat.
Mr Brumby says Government help is available for people whose homes are destroyed by the fires.
“It’s always devastating when someone loses their home. We have obviously activated the emergency grants so they’re available immediately to families that are affected,” he said.
Nationals leader Peter Ryan says people are angry that their lives and property are under threat from deliberately lit fires.
He says the Gippsland communities have been taken completely by surprise.
“The overriding reaction from so many people, you can see it on their faces during these briefings, is shock,” he said.
“It’s just an extraordinary degree of shock and its a very, very hard way to bring home the message, I tell you, if you stand among them and you see how it is, the impact upon them.”
Residents in Melbourne and regional Victoria are continuing to experience disruptions to power supplies.
About 11,100 homes and businesses across the greater Melbourne area are still without power.
Most of the people who have blackouts are on the Mornington Peninsula, in north-eastern Melbourne and in Gippsland.
The electricity distribution companies say this week’s extreme heat has affected transformers, which maintenance crews need to replace.
Paul Bird from the national electricity manager NEMMCO says the main transmission fault yesterday has been fixed.
“So we can reassure customers that the system as a whole is operating effectively,” he said.
Meanwhile Connex has cancelled 32 trains this morning. The Lilydale and Sunshine lines are the worst affected.
More hot days ahead
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says Victoria’s north-west is facing another week of extreme heat.
BOM says temperatures in Melbourne will drop slightly to the mid-30s over the coming days.
But forecaster Terry Ryan say inland Victoria is still recording temperatures over 40 degrees.
“We’re saying [in] the next seven days, Mildura should be 40 or above and right along the Murray the same conditions should apply,” he said.
“So we’re going to have to start looking at record number of days above 40 for anywhere in Victoria, it’s going to close to breaking it up there.”
Gerard Mansour, from Aged and Community Care Victoria, says more extreme heat is bad news for the elderly.
“After days of extreme heat and power cuts, this is an ideal time for our community to really pay some interest and think about their friends, someone next door, someone who’s older,” he said.
“This is the time to go and check they’re ok, offer a bit of help, see if they need some assistance.”