Fire authorities warning Victorians to keep out of the bush

Fire authorities warning Victorians to keep out of the bush

6 February 2009

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Australia — Victorians are being urged to stay away from the state’s parks ahead of predicted horror fire conditions tomorrow.

And Premier John Brumby has asked Victorians to be on the lookout for firebugs, warning the weather had the potential to be fatal.

“Anybody who sees suspicious behaviour in any way should not hesitate to contact the authorities because it’s the sort of day when a fire that gets away won’t just damage property, it may well cost lives – lives as well as Black Friday and Ash Wednesday have done before,” Mr Brumby said.

“So I don’t exaggerate when I say we need to be on alert.”

As fire crews race against time to contain a bushfire burning out of control east of Melbourne, the Department of Sustainability and Environment has asked Victorians to rethink their travel plans for this weekend if they involve visiting national parks or forested areas.

DSE spokesman Lee Miezis said fire crews were preparing for the worst fire conditions in more than thirty years.

“There’s a high risk in all our forested areas, national parks and on the urban fringe,” he said.

“We are asking people to defer all non-essential travel into forested areas.  In particular the Great Ocean Rd and the Black Spur where there’s a danger of being trapped if fire does occur.”

The Bureau of Meteorology has predicted a temperature of 43 degrees for Melbourne on Saturday, just shy of the all-time highest temperature in February of 43.2C. Mildura and Swan Hill in the state’s northwest are forecast to have temperatures of up to 46C on Saturday, with high winds also predicted.

A total fire ban has been declared for the whole of Victoria for today and tomorrow

Mr Brumby said the weather predictions were a recipe for disaster.

“It’s just going to be probably by a long way the worst day ever in the history of the state in terms of temperatures and winds,” he said.

“It’s just as bad a day as you can imagine and on top of that the state is just tinder dry so people need to exercise real commonsense tomorrow, if you don’t need to go out don’t go out, it’s a seriously bad day.”

Mr Brumby urged people to again check on elderly relatives, friends and neighbours who are vulnerable in the heat.

The warning comes as the city morgue struggles to cope with the rising number of heat-related deaths.

“It’s going to be a terrible day for anybody who is ill or anybody who is old and they need support nd they need help, we’re not exaggerating when we say this is going to be a shocking day, it is, so people should be prepared,” Mr Brumby said.

He said Victoria was expected to have enough electricity to avert a repeat of last week’s power meltdown, barring another catastrophic event.

There are 107 fires in Victoriastill burning within containment lines, with those hot spots to be a focus of fire operations this weekend.

The DSE has also warned a bushfire still burning out of control in the Bunyip State Park, five kilometres north of Tonimbuk, near Pakenham, is likely to threaten nearby communities.

The townships of Labertouche and Tonimbuk are likely to be directly impacted by the fires tomorrow, while the communities of Jindivick, Bunyip, Drouin West and Longwarry have been warned to prepare for falling embers, smoke and the possibility of fires.

The fire, which is about 122ha in size, began on February 4.  It had been contained but it broke through containment lines.

“We expect today the fire will stay within the state park,” Mr Miezis said.

“We have over 100 firefighters, aircraft and the aircranes working to contain the fire.”

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