Grampians on fire after lightning strikes

UPDATE: The CFA has warned residents at Wartook and Laharum that leaving is the safest option, as spotfires and ember attacks are occurring across Roses Gap Road, with bushfires travelling southerly from towards the Wartook valley.

CFA strike teams are rushing to the Grampians National Park to control a number of fires that were started by lightning strikes on Wednesday afternoon.

CFA media officer Jenny McGennisken said the main fire causing concern was one in bushland at Pohlners Road West near Wartook in the north west of the national park.

Ms McGennisken said the fire was active overnight and had the potential to flare up today.

Related: CFA nervous as conditions reach worst case scenario

Ms McGennisken said CFA strike teams were also on their way to a fire at Mount Abrupt about four kilometres north of Dunkeld that has burnt about 51 hectares.
She said the fire was believed to have been contained about 5am but has since flared up again.

The Victoria Valley Road and McCutcheons Road in the Grampians remains closed because of the fire.

Fire fighting aircraft have been deployed to help control the blazes.

Firefighters are also responding to two small fires in the Geerak Track South area in the southern area of the Grampians National Park.

The fires are not yet under control and are about 18 kilometres north east of Cavendish, west of Dunkeld.

Advice messages have been issued for the Mona Park, Woohlpooer, Mooralla and Victoria Point areas north of Cavendish because of Gerack Track South fires but residents are not under threat.

Ms Gennisken said another fire started by a lightning strike at Pohlners Road East in the national park was causing less concern.

A further fire off the Northern Grampians Road burnt out about 40 hectares of the national park but was contained overnight.

Other fires have also been reported this morning at the Bunjils Cave Road near Stawell and at Wickliffe near Lake Bolac.

The Wickliffe fire has been contained.

Ms McGennisken said winds were expected to be light today and not present a big fire risk.

Southern Grampians acting mayor Peter Dark praised the efforts of emergency services for their efforts fighting fires overnight in and around the Grampians and is reminding people to follow emergency warnings.

"Maximum temperatures are set to remain above 40 degrees for the next few days so everyone should remain alert, with Friday particularly of concern," Cr Dark said.

"It's particularly important for people to listen to the emergency information being distributed by the CFA.

"The council is ready to provide as much assistance as the CFA and DEPI need to manage these fires.

"We've already had staff out assisting emergency services with road closures and ensuring fire-fighting aircraft can safely use the Hamilton Airport," Cr Dark said.

A bushfire alert was issued last night as the region today struggles through the third consecutive day of total fire ban.

VicRoads said this week’s extreme heat conditions had caused some south-west roads to become sticky.

A spokesman urged people to drive safely to the road conditions and observe all safety warnings.

Roads affected included the Warrnambool-Caramut Road, Warrnambool-Penshurst Road, Port Fairy-Penshurst Road, Hamilton Highway between Penshurst and Hamilton, Henty Highway between Heywood and Hamilton, Princes Highway between Heywood and Dartmoor, Princes Highway at Heywood, Glenelg Highway at Coleraine and Penshurst-Dunkeld Road.

CFA district five operations officer Henry Barton said while temperatures today might not be as high as Tuesday, the fire danger would be as severe because the three consecutive hot days had dried out vegetation and strong winds were expected today.

High overnight temperatures this week had also meant there was no moisture recovery during the nights, he said. Mr Barton said the CFA would set up incident control and local command centres early today because of the severe fire danger.

Temperatures today are forecast to reach 37 degrees in Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Portland and 43 degrees in Mortlake and Hamilton.

North to north-easterly winds are expected to reach 20-30km/h in the morning swinging north to north-westerly around midday.

High temperatures are expected to prevail again tomorrow until an afternoon change brings relief.

Temperatures yesterday reached 34.7 degrees in Warrnambool, 31.7 degrees in Port Fairy and 33.8 degrees in Portland while Hamilton and Casterton sweltered again with 41 degrees.

A quick response by the CFA contained a grass fire that broke out yesterday afternoon in the Penshurst area. Three CFA units and a private unit had the fire under control within 10 minutes.

Mr Barton said the fire burnt a 60-metre long area of grassland adjacent to the Hamilton Highway near its intersection with the Blackwood-Dunkeld Road.

ehimmelreich@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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