Grampians on alert due to risk of flare-up in heat

FIREFIGHTERS will keep a wary eye on three contained and controlled fires in the Grampians as temperatures are expected to top 40 degrees in the national park again today.

A community meeting will be held in Halls Gap at 10am this morning and airborne infra-red cameras will be deployed north of Dunkeld as part of the plan for dealing with another scorcher so soon after massive blazes burnt out large parts of the national park.

A fire north of Dunkeld is listed as controlled, as is a large blaze called the Stawell Bunjils Cave Road fire located south of Stawell. 

A third fire listed as contained in the Wartook-northern Grampians area has already burnt out 55,100 hectares and will be a focus for firefighters today, incident controller with the Department of Environment and Primary Industries Russell Manning said.

“The weather conditions (for today) are predicted to be extreme fire conditions,” he explained.

“We’ve been, for the last few days, working on the southern edge of the fires and blacking out the area, extinguishing hot spots, so there’s no reignition under the strong northerly wind predicted (today).”

A south-westerly wind change is predicted late this afternoon, which could drastically alter the 260km fire line of the Wartook blaze.

“That’s a lot of fire edge we’ve got to black out for 50 metres — it’s hot, hard work but we’re getting on top of it,” Mr Manning said.

Firefighters were also dropped by helicopter into the remote areas around the Geerak Track-Mount Abrupt fire north of Dunkeld.

“They knocked out some small hot spots and then had a two-and-a-half-hour walk out of the Grampians to a vehicle — that’s how remote that fire is,” he said.

“We’ll continue to monitor that area with aircraft carrying a FLIR (forward looking infra-red) camera that detects hot spots.”

While the Grampians have been declared open for business, visitors to the region are warned to stay away from active bushfire areas.

Fire crews have been encountering sightseers ignoring road closed signs and entering fire areas, incident controller Dale Russell told AAP.

“It is unbelievable that firefighters, who are continuing to work blacking out on both fires in preparation for the hotter week ahead, are having people impeding on them, putting themselves and our crews at risk,” he said.

“The road closed signs are there for a reason and for people to be driving around them is a disgrace.”

A number of major roads have reopened, including the Grampians Tourist Road which links Halls Gap with Dunkeld, and many Grampians campsites and walks are open.

Tourism Minister Louise Asher urged people to return to the area and support local businesses.

The Grampians fire has destroyed 10 homes and burnt more than 55,000 hectares.

The temperature is predicted to reach 41 degrees in Halls Gap and 38 degrees in Stawell today.

with AAP

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