THE south-west is bracing for “worst-case scenario” fire conditions today, with temperatures expected to soar above 40 degrees and strong winds forecast.
The warning comes after people in northern areas of the Grampians National Park were advised to leave yesterday when two bushfires merged and swept south towards Wartook Valley along the Mount Difficult Range.
People in the Roses Gap, Laharum, Heathvale, Zumsteins and Wartook areas were urged to evacuate, with the CFA not expecting to bring the large blaze under control until at least today.
The blaze, dubbed the Northern Grampians complex fire, was among more than six in the Grampians started by a lightning storm on Wednesday.
CFA district five operations officer Henry Barton said crews would be mobilised today across the region, with extra trucks also sent to prevent another blaze at Mount Abrupt jumping containment lines.
The fire, four kilometres north of Dunkeld, has burnt through more than 51 hectares.
“The Bureau of Meteorology has given us a good heads up that the worst case scenario could happen,” Mr Barton told The Standard.
“The temperature will be in the low 40s and high 30s and we’re expecting a significant wind change from 11am from a north, north westerly to a south-westerly.
“We will be in Dunkeld to make sure that it doesn’t jump out of the bush.’’
Most roads in the northern Grampians were closed yesterday and the Victoria Valley Road was closed because of the Mount Abrupt fire.
Firefighters are also keeping a watchful eye on the Mortlake district where lightning also sparked fires this week.
Meanwhile, seven CFA vehicles were called to a fire at Jancourt Road, South Purrumbete, about 6pm Thursday.
Around 50 fires are still burning around Victoria, placing a strain on the number of water bombers available to tackle fires inside the Grampians rough terrain.
Today is a total fire ban day, the fourth consecutive fire ban this week.
The region previously had four consecutive total fire ban days in 2009, just before the Black Saturday bushfires.
Southern Grampians acting mayor Peter Dark praised the efforts of emergency services for their efforts fighting fires this week in and around the Grampians and reminded 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 Heart Foundation has issued a warning to Victorians with heart disease to take extra care in the heat.
Meanwhile, V/Line said normal train services on the Warrnambool line would resume tomorrow after running on a heat timetable this week.