Victoria bakes: bushfires continue to burn out of control, Metro commuters urged to leave CBD early

Victoria bakes: bushfires continue to burn out of control, Metro commuters urged to leave CBD early

16 January 2014

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Australia — A total of 1,000 fires have been reported in the past 24 hours and 40 are still burning out of control.

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) has issued emergency warnings in the northern Grampians, the north-west, and along the South Australian border.

Gippsland communities in Trafalgar, Trafalgar East and Westbury have also been issued with emergency warnings.

Residents in Steiglitz, near Geelong were earlier warned of a fast-moving fire, but it has since been down-graded and brought under control.

Incident controller Russell Manning says the fire in the Grampians could threaten Halls Gap.

“The situation is really serious, we’ve got temperatures in the high 20s overnight tomorrow, we’ve got winds that are 40 to 60 kph from the north before we a get a gusty south westerly change which is of the same intensity so the fire could blow a considerable distance with that change,” he said.

In the state’s north west, residents of Yaapeet will meet for a briefing on the Lake Albacutya and Paradise Reserve fires.

Residents in Steiglitz, in the Brisbane Ranges north of Geelong, are being warned a fast moving fire front.

The town is not on the electricity grid, and nearby areas have been affected by power outages.

Local resident Lindy Allinson says she is ready to leave her home as soon as the wind changes.

“We’ve been watching a plume of smoke. It was black and the choppers – we [could] see the ones that drop the water – there was a police chopper but most of the sky is filled with smoke,” she said.

Bushfire warnings: *Get the latest official warnings from the Country Fire Authority website

Forecast maps*: Take a look at the interactive weather and wave forecast maps.
CFA state control centre spokesman Lee Miezis says firefighters in the area are dealing with a number of blazes.

“What we’re dealing with is a complex of fires when we have lightning strikes we do tend to have a number of different and separate fires start we are treating it as a complex of separate fires,” he said

“We’ll just have to keep monitoring that through the day as conditions change.”

“We will have some winds there may be some lightning again.”

Fire authorities are now also warning tomorrow will not be the end of the fire threat.

“The change will move through southern parts of Victoria tomorrow but the north-eastern part of the state will still be in the 40s on Saturday,” said Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley.

He warns the now-baked landscape means the risk will remain when the heat subsides.

“Many fires, particularly in history have seen significant losses after the change, so we lose lots of land and threatened large communities or large sections of communities after the wind change when fires are running,” he said.

Metro customers urged to leave CBD early

Commuters face major delays heading home this evening, after a series of train and signalling faults crippled the rail network.

Suspensions on the Pakenham and Cranbourne lines have been lifted, but customers have been told to expect major delays.

Services on the Sandringham line have also resumed on the Sandringham line after a train fault suspended operation.

Due to the ongoing extreme heat, Metro is urging all of its customers to leave the CBD as early as practicable.

It says this afternoon’s peak will present significant challenges to its train air-conditioning units.

Due to the ongoing extreme heat, Metro is urging all of our customers to leave the CBD as early as practicable. 1/4

â Metro Trains (@metrotrains)Â January 16, 2014

“There is no precedent for this week’s heat. We urge all of those who can travel before the afternoon peak to please do so, where possible,” Metro said on Twitter.

“We understand the heat is already making life difficult for all Melburnians and we thank you for your ongoing patience.”

24 cardiac arrests since Monday

Twenty-four people have died of cardiac arrests since the heatwave rolled in.

Ambulance services have been inundated with triple-zero calls.

Among the 24 deaths was a 76-year old gardener at Ivanhoe Girls Grammar.

Martin Troy collapsed while at work yesterday and could not be revived.

“The whole school is devastated,” said principal, Dr Heather Schnagel.

“He was perhaps the most loved ever at this school he worked here for nearly 33 years.”

Staff, then paramedics worked to revive the 76-year-old, who had earlier been told to take the day off.

Paul Holmann from Ambulance Victoria says metropolitan emergency callouts yesterday topped 2,000 compared to 1,500 on a normal January day.

“So far up until today, we’ve had 24 cardiac arrests which is double normal and 55 heat exhaustion,” he said.

Earlier a woman was treated after being struck by lightning during a storm.

Paramedics say the woman aged in her 30s was hit about 7:30pm (AEDT) at the Cairn Curran Reservoir, near Castlemaine.

Crews were able to resuscitate her and she was taken to the Bendigo Hospital for treatment.

Fire at Gippsland nursing home

Six people are being treated for smoke inhalation after a fire at a nursing home at Inverloch, a seaside town in on the Gippsland coastline.

The blaze started in a resident’s room of the Cashin street facility, forcing more than 100 staff and residents to evacuate the building.

Four elderly residents and two staff members were taken to hospital in a stable condition, while 15 residents have been moved to other nursing homes until the clean-up is finished.

Ambulance Victoria says it is dealing with a 20 per cent rise in call-outs today due to the extreme heat.

Paramedics have treated 10 heart attack patients and 21 heat-related ailments.

Extra staff have been rostered to deal with the increase in case load.

Power outages amid talks over cutting electricity

About 19,000 customers were left without power around Frankston, in Melbourne’s south-east.

United Energy says it is investigating the cause of the outage, saying confirming there there have been two faults.

Spokesman Jai McDermott says crews are working as fast as they can to restore power.

So far power to 3,600 customers has been restored, but it could still take several hours before the faults are fixed.

“As soon as we have more information we’ll provide that to customers, we just ask for patience as we investigate the cause,” he said.

“We can ensure customers that we have extra crews, they’re working around the clock to make power’s restored as quickly as possible.”

More than 5,000 homes have been cut off from power near Ouyen in Victoria’s north-west.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) says a decision will be made this afternoon as to whether it will have to start cutting electricity to homes because of the heatwave.

It says it will have to start load shedding if electricity demand outstrips supply.

That would see industry, businesses and then households without power for defined periods.

Spokesman Joe Adamo says it is still “touch and go” over whether they will have to start load shedding today.

“Conditions we expect to be a little bit worse and demand we expect to be higher; however, we do have some positive news with some generation that we didn’t have yesterday now being online today, which has sought of balanced that out for us,” he said.

Earlier, Victorian Premier Denis Napthine said forced power outages remain a possibility over the next two days of extreme heat.

As the AEMO decides whether or not to start cutting electricity to homes, Victorian variable wholesale electricity pool prices have sky-rocketed.

On Monday the Regional Reference Price (RRP) was $47.58 per meg watt hour.

But energy retailers on Tuesday were buying electricity at $243.07 per mega watt hour.

That price more than doubled on Wednesday to $750.98 per mega watt hour.

Martin Jones from the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre is urging the regulators to monitor the situation.

“It’s difficult to put a finger on any particular price change and say that it’s price gouging, however we are concerned about the issue because of its effect on consumers,” he said.

“It’s something we’re keen for the regulators to monitor.”

AEMO oversees the pricing of wholesale electricity.

It says the market design allows for the wholesale electricity price to vary.

In a statement sent to the ABC, it says “On hot days, the most expensive generation is needed to supply all of the demand. These are known as â?peaking plantâ?? and are in the market specifically designed to manage peak periods.

“The wholesale market is a competitive market. Wholesale prices are set in that competitive market. The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) monitors compliance with the market rules and would regulate any anticompetitive behaviour.

“The maximum price allowed in the market is one of the reliability settings determined by the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC). High prices are needed to ensure there is enough investment in the long term to meet demand during extremely hot weather without interruption.”

Melbourne is facing its longest run of 40C days since 1908, when there were five straight.

The temperature did not drop below 27.2C in Melbourne overnight and the mercury hit 43.9C at 3:14pm (AEDT).

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