24/09/2020

Victoria’s State of Disaster has been extended for another 48 hours because of “extreme danger” conditions.

Victorias State of Disaster has been extended for another 48 hours because of extreme danger conditions.
An emergency warning was issued on Thursday afternoon for Carboor, Carboor East, Carboor Upper, Cheshunt, Cheshunt South, Claremont, Dandongadale, Edi, Edi Upper, Hyem, Jarrott, King Valley, Markous, Myrrhee, Pieper, Rose River, Whitfield, Whitlands, and Whorouly South.
An out-of-control bushfire has crossed thye Mount Emu track near Mount Buffalo, and is traveling in a north-westerly direction.
Residents in those areas are urged to leave now.
Total fire bans have been declared for the Mallee, Northern Country, North East, East Gippsland, West and South Gippsland, and North Central districts for Friday.
Premier Daniel Andrews announced the move this morning, with fire danger set to increase significantly in coming days.
“These next weeks and months are going to be very challenging,” Mr Andrews said.
“I know we have not seen this much fire activity this early in the season, but I also don’t think we’ve seen as co-ordinated a response as we’ve seen in the past few weeks.”
Mr Andrews added that the co-ordinated firefighting effort was one of the reasons Victoria’s death toll wasn’t so high.
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp has urged residents and holiday-makers to leave East Gippsland, urging them to heed warnings as the mercury skyrockets to 40C in some parts.
“You should not be (in East Gippsland),” he said. “We’ve still got a very active fire situation in Victoria. You need to heed those warnings.”
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CFA strike teams perform controlled burning west of Corryong ahead of horror conditions this week. Picture: Jason Edwards
Mr Andrews also echoed the warning, saying: “We can’t guarantee your safety, and we can’t be putting emergency services … in harm’s way because people didn’t follow the advice they were given.
“We are in for some very, very challenging high fire danger weather.
“The most dangerous time is when the change comes, and the flank of the fire becomes the head of the fire.”
He said thousands of text messages would be sent to people in the fire zones telling people to leave if they don’t need to be there.
Just one community – Combienbar in East Gippsland – was still isolated but all towns have had communications including satellite phones being dropped in.
The Premier said that while everyone had left Mallacoota who had registered to leave, people could still go, for medical or other reasons.
The HMAS Choules was being reloaded with food, water and fuel and would depart for Mallacoota this afternoon.
Authorities also provided an update on the Victorian Bushfire Appeal, which has so far raised $15 million.
“100 per cent of all money given to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal goes to families who have lost everything — we’re covering the overheads,” Mr Andrews said.
THE CONDITIONS AHEAD
Emergency services minister Lisa Neville also warned of the possibility of new fires starting in other parts of Victoria, ignited by dry lightning.
The dangerous fire conditions will see a gusty south-westerly wind change of 40 to 50kmh, and gusts of up to 90kmh in elevated and coastal areas.
The cool change will hit Melbourne around midday before sweeping across to Bairnsdale at 4pm and the alps in the evening.
It comes a bushfire in Victoria’s alps flared up overnight, sparking an earlier emergency warning close to Mt Buffalo.
But brave firefighters have worked tirelessly to stop the spread of the fire, aided by higher humidity this warning. It has since been downgraded to a watch and act.
Authorities say the blaze was “extremely active” overnight and sparked spot fires to the north of the fire front.
CFA Chief Fire Officer Steve Warrington stressed that fires in Victoria traditionally start in January, and the state is only now coming into its peak bushfire season.
Most of the state’s fires started through dry lightning, wind and little rain, Mr Warrington said.
“A lightning strike starts a fire and then there is no rain to extinguish it … most of these have been lightning strikes,” he said.
The cycle of weather spike days is also set to continue.
“It’s this time of year, we’re in January, February for Victorians. We’re in this cycle now that we’ll get a couple of days of respite then go back into the heat as these high and low cells move across the state,” Mr Warrington said.
He was also full of praise for the work CFA volunteers.
“Our volunteers are just being fantastic and I’m just so, so proud.
“People say we’ve been lucky — we’re not lucky, we’ve been well planned.”
Residents in Victorias fire zone are being told to leave now as authorities brace for extreme conditions heading into the weekend. Officials are concerned high temperatures and dangerous winds could lead to a flare up as fire conditions deteriorate. Firefighters continue to work against the clock to contain the blazes ahead of the weekend.
HORROR CONDITIONS ON FIRE ‘SPIKE DAY’
Everyone in East Gippsland and the alpine regions has been told to “leave and leave early” amid the extreme conditions.
Authorities predict that fire activity will spike as the mercury rises.
Temperatures in parts of the state are tipped to top 40C on Thursday before a wind change sweeps through.
Dry lightning strikes, combined with the strong winds, will threaten to spark fast-moving grass and forest fires.
Across the state:
• 23 fires are burning, with 13 watch and act warnings issued;
• 1000 defence force personnel were assisting with evacuations and helping farmers dig holes to bury dead livestock;
• 67 more firefighters and personnel arrived from Canada and the US, with an “order” for 140 more;
• 240 homes and more than 335 outbuildings have been confirmed destroyed; and
• 270 people, the final evacuees from isolated Mallacoota, last night arrived at HMAS ­Cerberus at Crib Point on the Mornington Peninsula, on HMAS Choules.
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Fires have raged across the state since New Years Eve. Picture: AFP
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp yesterday said that much of the state was “tinder dry” and “ready to go again”.
He warned that a fire could run through Omeo, Swifts Creek and the Tambo Valley to join with a huge blaze in East Gippsland.
“The key message is really about remaining vigilant no matter where you are,” Mr Crisp said.
“These are the fires that we know about — but we keep talking about the fires that we don’t know about.
“There are thunderstorms coming through as part of the change on Friday and there is every chance that we will see dry lightning again.
“If there are new starts, you could find yourself cut off again. That’s why it’s safer not to be there in the first place.”
Friday’s conditions are predicted to be similar to those experienced last Sunday, although higher humidity will help ease the danger.
Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville urged people to get out of fire areas on Thursday, if it was safe to do so.
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Fires continue to burn in Victoria. Picture: AAP
“You should leave and leave early before the Friday conditions,” she said.
“I think it’s true to say that things would be very different today if people had not heeded the warnings we have given over the last couple of weeks.”
Small amounts of rain earlier this week had made way for controlled burns and preparation work but had “in no way changed the risk”, Ms ­Neville said.
“These fires remain dangerous, they remain dynamic, they remain volatile,” she said.
“The conditions we are going to see can give significant life to these fires going ahead on Friday.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday toured the devastated holiday destination of Kangaroo Island in South Australia, and confirmed that relief payments to individuals and businesses would be tax free.
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TRIBUTES FLOW FOR THIRD BUSHFIRE VICTIM
A forest management firefighter killed while on duty has been remembered as a “well-loved” family man passionate about the outdoors.
Mat Kavanagh, 43, died in a two-car crash at Thornton, near Mansfield, taking the state’s bushfire death toll to three. The dad of two had ­extinguished seven unattended campfires before the crash on the Goulburn Valley Highway last Friday.
Mr Kavanagh’s wife Jude on Wednesday paid tribute to her husband, describing him as “positive, happy, smart, passionate, funny and loyal”.
Neighbour Graeme Matthews said his friendship with Mr Kavanagh was like that of mates Tim Taylor and Wilson in the TV sitcom Home ­Improvement.
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43-year-old Mat Kavanagh had put out seven unattended camp fires in the hours before his death.
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Mat Kavanagh pictured with wife Jude was killed while on duty on Friday in a crash at Thornton.
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“We always used to talk over the fence,” he said. “We loved to have a beer together.”
Mr Matthews said the ­talent musician and fisherman was an “amazing father” and firefighter, who had survived Black Saturday.
“I swear he knew the names of the fish in the Goulburn river, he was that good,” he said.
Forest Fire Management Victoria chief fire officer Chris Hardman said the 10-year veteran’s death had devastated Mr Kavanagh’s loved ones and colleagues.
“I can’t imagine what the family are going through and what Matt’s colleagues are going through,” he said. “It is such a very sad day.”
– with Brianna Travers and Claire Bickers
monique.hore@news.com.au