Drivers warned to heed speed restrictions on Princes Hwy as fire smoulders

UPDATE 11.20am:

Speed restrictions on the Princes Highway at Pirron Yallock due to a fire burning nearby in the Stony Rises have been lifted, a CFA spokeswoman says.

Late last week a section of the highway was reduced to 40 km/h and closed for short periods as CFA and Forest Fire Management Victoria crews attempted to extinguish a blaze that started last Wednesday.

The fire, believed to have been started by rubbish being burnt in a steel drum in a backyard, has been difficult to put out because it’s in an area of volcanic rock that holds heat.

The CFA spokeswoman said the fire had been contained to six hectares and on-ground Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning crews were working on it today.

She said traffic was back to normal and there was no longer a lot of smoke visible, but concerns about the fire remained given warmer temperatures were forecast for later in the week.

A maximum temperature of 31 is forecast for nearby Colac on Saturday.

EARLIER – Friday afternoon: Smoke coming from a fire that’s burnt seven hectares next to the Princes Highway near Pirron Yallock since Wednesday could affect people travelling through the region on the long weekend, authorities say.

Forest Fire Management Victoria and CFA crews have contained the fire, however, they were still using tankers and firefighting helicopters to tackle it on Friday afternoon.

Forest Fire Management Victoria spokesman Andrew McKinnon said the nature of the terrain was making it difficult to completely extinguish the fire. The fire was in an area of volcanic basalt rocks known as the Stony Rises.

“That country is volcanic and it’s got igneous rock and that holds heat,” he said.

“Once it’s had fire in it it’s going to be hot for a long time. As a result, what we’ve been doing since the first started on Wednesday is dumping lot and lots of water on it using the fire tankers. Today and yesterday we began to use aerial support through helicopters to drop larger volumes.

“Basically it needs rain and if it’s not going to happen naturally we are putting water there to cool it.”

The Princes Highway was closed for short periods on Friday afternoon as the Hercules air bomber from Avalon was brought in to drop fire retardant to create containment lines.

Mr McKinnon said despite hot weather forecast for Saturday – with nearby Colac predicted to reach 32 degrees – authorities were confident the fire was sufficiently contained. He said it had burnt seven hectares of private property south of the Floating Islands Flora and Fauna Reserve.

There are speed restrictions on the parts of the Princes Highway which Mr McKinnon said were likely to be in place until at least Sunday or Monday.

There were near misses reported on Thursday after people failed to heed speed restrictions and had to perform “dangerous manoeuvres” to avoid hitting fire fighting equipment and other vehicles.

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