Extra fire crews sent to Drik Drik

FIRE crews are being brought in from throughout Victoria and South Australia to battle the Portland-Nelson Road fire as it continues to put a number of communities near the border on alert.

Deputy Incident Controller Andy Cusack said the threat to communities such as Drik Drik had eased today because south-west winds were pushing the fire on to forest areas burnt yesterday.

However, firefighters were concerned about a forecast increase in the strength of the south-west winds this afternoon.

Mr Cusack said the fire had so far not burnt any homes but had blackened about 7000 hectares of native forest, pine and blue gum plantations between Portland, Dartmoor and through to the South Australian border.

He said the fire had been through the Glenelg National Park and was presently heading into the Cobboboonee National Park.

Mr Cusack said fire crews were being brought in from throughout Victoria and SA to try to hold the fire and be proactive in its suppression.

"We are trying to hold the fire lines we have," Mr Cusack said.

"We are building perimeter strength by blacking out and controlling any getaways," Mr Cusack said.

There were presently 400 firefighters battling the fire and it was planned to double that number in the next few days.

The present battle force included 40 tankers and 65 slip on units.

Country Fire Authority units had been brought in from as far away as Geelong and north of Ararat while the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE)had sent in crews from through Victoria.

About 100 firefighters were tonight expected to camp in tents at the Heywood sporting complex, with the number camping out there expected to rise to 300 tomorrow.

Other firefighters were presently being accommodated at Warrnambool with some of them staying in motels.

Mr Cusack said accommodating and feeding the hundreds of firefighters was a huge logistic exercise.

He said firefighters were surprised at how fast-moving the fire was, even when weather conditions were mild.

"The dryness, as much as anything, is making it unpredictable," Mr Cusack said.

He said fire alerts had been issued for the communities of Drik Drik, Mumbannar and those along the Princes Highway such as Lyons and Greenwald but firefighters were optimistic at this stage about keeping the blaze away from those areas.

"They are the people, with the south-west wind, who are most at risk.

"If the fire starts to run, we will up our warning levels," Mr Cusack said.

The DSE has warned the fire is sending a large amount of smoke across south-west Victoria.

It advised residents and visitors in the far south-west that heavy smoke might restrict visibility and urged motorists to reduce speed and drive to the conditions.

The Health Department also advised people who were experiencing any symptoms that might be due to smoke exposure to seek medical advice from their local doctor, or call Nurse on Call on 1300 606 024 or go to www.health.vic.gov.au or www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au.

For information on fires in Victoria and general fire safety, contact the Victorian Bushfire Information Line (VBIL) on freecall 1800 240 667.

Callers who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech / communication impairment can contact VBIL via the National Relay Service on 1800 555 677.

People should also tune in to their emergency broadcasters: ABC Local Radio, commercial radio and designated community radio stations or SKY NEWS Television.

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