Australia — A volunteer firefighter from South Australia has been seriously injured by a falling tree branch while helping contain fires, as Victoria braces for scorching conditions on Friday.
The 39-year-old Country Fire Service (CFS) firefighter was flown to Royal Melbourne Hospital in a serious but stable condition after the accident at Snobs Creek, near Eildon, on Wednesday, an ambulance spokesman said.
A spokesman for the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) said the firefighter was working on a containment line at the Murrindindi Complex fire when the accident happened.
Firefighters made the most of cooler temperatures in Victoria on Wednesday to build thick containment lines around seven fires still burning out of control across the state.
Priority is being placed on fires raging close to private property and populated areas near Daylesford and Upwey, DSE spokesman Mike Goode said.
Mr Goode said some of the fires are close to being contained.
Temperatures in the low 20s on Wednesday and light rain have helped dampen the fires and stop them from flaring up further.
“All our work at the moment is focused on strengthening containment lines, blacking out hot spots wherever possible, in anticipation of a bad day on Friday,” Mr Goode told AAP.
Temperatures are expected to rise to 30 degrees on Thursday, before soaring to 39 degrees on Friday which is expected to be the worst conditions since the February 7 fires claimed at least 210 lives.
Special attention is being focused on widening the lines around the fires in Daylesford in central Victoria and Upwey in Melbourne’s outer east, which flared up earlier this week and came close to threatening townships.
“But any area where there is still an active fire is a concern,” Mr Goode said.
“We’re also looking at how we have our resources deployed across the various fires and ensuring that personnel and equipment will be placed in appropriate locations to maximise protection of property as well as maximise our ability to control any flare-ups.”
Over 4,000 personnel, including 1,200 from interstate and 120 from overseas, are still involved in the fight against the blazes which have been burning since February 7.
“It’s been a fairly long, drawn-out fire campaign,” Mr Goode said, adding that the support from around the country and world had been amazing.
“We are ensuring that our crews are rotated on a regular basis so they do get a rest.”
He added that people were on standby across the state in case of any new outbreaks of fire.
It is not yet known whether a total fire ban will be in place for the state on Friday, but it is likely.
“We are asking people to think very carefully about what their plans for the day will be, and if they are going to leave, they need to leave early,” Mr Goode said.
Police have asked for assistance in identifying those who still remain unaccounted for following the February 7 fires.
Donations to the Bushfire Appeal Fund have now topped $A198 million ($NZ255.1 million).