A LARGE bushfire burning west of Portland has destroyed more than 1000 hectares of commercial pine plantations valued at more than $2 million.
Another 5000 hectares of public forest further north in the Lower Glenelg National Park will be set alight in a bid to stop the inferno which has been running since Friday and has engulfed almost 3000 hectares in the Kentbruck district.
About 200 firefighters from the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and forestry industry are working around the clock supported by seven fixed-wing aircraft, three helicopters and five bulldozers.
More crews from around the state are being sent to support the effort. Smoke has been blowing inland as far as the Mallee and the South Australian border.
Roadblocks were set up again on the Portland-Nelson Road and camping grounds and visitor sites including sites along the Glenelg River were evacuated and closed.
Two sections of the Great South West Walk were also closed between Portland and Battersbys campsite and between Mount Richmond and Nelson.
Motorists and asthmatics have been advised to be cautious. Incident controller Andy Cusack said there would be significantly more smoke from backburning for the next few days. Crews were backburning along access tracks and aircraft would be used to torch the 5000ha section.
With more hot weather expected today and later in the week authorities have warned property owners and farmers to exercise caution when operating machinery and clear fire hazards.
Meanwhile, CFA brigades on Friday night quelled a fire in a rubbish pile and grass near Woolsthorpe and a fire in a Koroit backyard.
Yesterday, Warrnambool brigade members were called to the Payne Reserve in Dennington where an electricity switchboard caught fire.
They had to break through a door to gain access.
The alarm was raised by people attending a six-year-old’s birthday party.
“It provided quite a show for the kids as we broke down the door and extinguished the fire,” station officer Dave Ferguson said.
They also attended a small fire in a Hickford Parade house after the resident mistakenly put a plastic kettle onto a gas stove flame.
On Saturday members were called to Stanley Street to rescue a cat being attacked by crows up a tree. Fortunately when the brigade’s ladder went up the tree, the cat scampered down to safety.