A HUGE fire sweeping through the Grampians crossed the Henty Highway last night with firefighters from as far as New Zealand battling to slow it down.
Their task will be even tougher tomorrow with severe conditions and north-easterly winds of up to 50 kilometres an hour forecast.
Communities at Glenisla, Woohlpooer and Mooralla were on edge as smoke covered their properties with the fire approaching. “Everything that can be done has been done and we are just watching and waiting, hoping it won’t cross the highway,” a resident of the historic Glenisla homestead told The Standard.
The front has burnt more than 15,000 hectares of national park and private farmland since late last week.
Incident controller Russell Manning said flames were travelling faster than crews on earthmoving equipment could clear breaks.
“It’s just jumped Harrop Track on the west side of the Victoria Range,” he said at 5pm.
“We are building a fall-back line with five dozers pushing against it with strong south-east winds. The front is about three kilometres from the Henty Highway and expected to cross this evening.”
Police crews were in place to close the highway between Horsham and Cavendish with further roadblocks at Cherrypool and Mooralla. They will remain until the danger has eased.
West of the highway, crews were set to carve containment lines through open redgum forest and heathland.
Mr Manning predicted nearby communities would continue to experience smoky conditions for many days to come.
“There is warm weather and no rain forecast for a week,” he said.
“We have more than 300 firefighters in action with reinforcements from New Zealand and NSW arriving today. The other key fire at Cassidys Gap near Dunkeld is under control.”
There were 24 other blazes in the Grampians and Wimmera districts, along with Edenhope and Irrewillipe districts.