Victorian bushfire conditions worsen

Victorian bushfire conditions worsen

16 January 2014

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Australia — Fires burning in Victoria’s Grampians are threatening communities and tourists as conditions worsen across the state.

Visitors to the Grampians National Park were advised to leave on Thursday afternoon as two out-of-control bushfires threatened communities near the park’s northwest entrance.

The fires are among the highest concern for authorities as Victoria’s heatwave conditions threaten to worsen on Friday, with a predicted southwest change creating severe danger.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said 39 fires were classed as ‘going’ on Thursday afternoon, after more than 1000 new incidents were reported in the past 24 hours.

Mr Lapsley said the volatile conditions of recent days were likely to continue.

‘Lightning on the last two evenings has been the major cause of new outbreaks,’ he told reporters.

‘That tells us that the conditions themselves are generating this kind of weather behaviour.’

Many parts of Victoria had temperatures in the mid-40s on Thursday, with similar forecasts predicted for Friday.

Total fire bans have been declared for all of Victoria for Thursday and Friday.

Mr Lapsley said the conditions were among the worst the state had experienced in five years.

‘It’s certainly up there – the fact that we’ve had a pre-run of three, four days of this sort of weather,’ he said.

However, he said the fire danger, while severe, would not be at the catastrophic level experienced on Black Saturday in February 2009, when fires killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2000 homes.

Emergency Services Minister Kim Wells said everyone in Victoria needed to have a fire plan and leave early if necessary.

‘No matter where you live, it’s up to you to understand your fire risk,’ he said.

‘If the fire danger rating is severe, extreme or code red, you are risking your life and your family’s life if you wait and see.

‘The message is clear – leave and live.’

As well as the Grampians, lightning sparked fires in Gippsland and central Victoria.

While Melbourne and the state’s south will enjoy cooler weather over the weekend, Mr Lapsley warned the cool change won’t go through the northeast until later on Saturday.

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