Worst is yet to come this fire season, CFA warns

THE CFA is warning the worst is yet to come after the south-west dodged major fires during last week’s record total fire ban days. 

Hundreds of firefighters, including three strike teams from the south-west, remain on the ground in the northern Grampians, where cooler weather has stopped a blaze spreading. 

Brigades from Cashmore, Branxholme and Pigeon Ponds have also been deployed to fires across the South Australian border. 

Halls Gap breathed a sigh of relieve over the weekend after a change in wind direction stopped the inferno that came within four kilometres of the township. 

Horsham Incident Control Centre advice and warning officer Robyn Hobbs said up to 10 homes had been lost so far, while 7000 livestock had also been claimed by the 52,000-hectare blaze. 

The fire is still not under control. 

“The cooler conditions will allow us to concentrate on the containment lines,” Ms Hobbs said. 

She said the fire perimeter spanned 189 kilometres.

Halls Gap was reopened to the public yesterday, while the Grampians National Park will reopen at noon today. 

Meanwhile, Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water has  asked Halls Gap residents to limit their use of water to shore up supplies needed to battle fires. 

About 700 firefighters and support staff are still in the region, with backburning operations happening near Mount Difficult range. CFA Barwon South West regional director Bob Barry thanked hundreds of volunteers on standby around the south-west. 

He said lightning fires around towns such as Mortlake had been quickly stamped out by brigades. 

But he warned recent 40 degree days had dried out most of the state’s vegetation. 

“February and March are our most vulnerable months,” Mr Barry said.

‘‘You’ve got to treat the whole state of Victoria now as ready to burn.

“We’re in the middle of January. We’ve probably got another eight or 10 weeks of summer to go.” 

He asked farmers to suspend harvest works on extreme heat days to avoid fires started by farm machinery. 

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