Race to kill Mortlake fire before heatwave

A STRIKE team of about 50 firefighters is working to quell a fire that has been burning on a Mortlake property since Friday.

They are aiming to eliminate hot spots before forecast hot weather and strong winds bring extreme fire danger conditions later in the week.

Thirteen fire brigades yesterday had teams at Mondilabi station, between Mortlake and Woorndoo, where about 48 hectares were burnt.

CFA district five acting duty officer Henry Barton, of Warrnambool, said yesterday 25 hectares of a wheat crop had been destroyed along with  10ha of a sugargum plantation, pasture and fencing.

The fire was still smouldering in stumps from an old forest and in the plantation.

“We’ve sent a strike team up there to get stuck into it,” Mr Barton said. 

“A significant amount of the plantation is still smouldering. Some of the fire is deep seated and we want to get rid of the hot spots before the weather gets worse. 

“Temperatures are predicted to hit the high 30s on Thursday and Friday, with northerly winds on Friday.”

Mr Barton said the fire started after embers flared up from a burn-off in a rubbish tip at the property a month or so ago. 

“This serves as a warning of the dangers of dry summer weather. People living in the region outside of Warrnambool should have fire plans ready in the event of a major blaze. 

“Even grass fires can cause significant damage and can travel quickly. If people do not have a fire plan they should go to the CFA website to learn how to do one.”

Brigades from Mortlake and Chatsworth, which had been at the property since Friday, received support yesterday from Warrn­ambool, Winslow, Grassmere, Framlingham, Koroit, Allansford, Panmure, Nullawarre, Peterborough, Hawkesdale and Spring Creek.

Yesterday afternoon the CFA said the grassfire was safe, but warned of smoke drifting over local roads and communities at Mortlake and Woorndoo.

On Saturday evening Warrnambool brigade members were called to a small fire at the old woollen mill, where intruders are believed to have set rubbish alight.

Earlier in the afternoon they extinguished a fire under the engine bonnet of a Mercedes four-wheel-drive car which was towing a large caravan.

The vehicle came to an abrupt stop on Raglan Parade.

Mr Barton said smoke was coming through the dashboard, the windscreen cracked from intense heat and the engine compartment was extensively damage. The cause was unclear.

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