Winds strengthen as fire danger warning continues
Posted 2 hours 39 minutes ago
Updated 18 minutes ago
Winds are picking up in parts of Victoria, as four fires continue to burn to the north and east of Melbourne, creating a fire threat for emergency services on alert across the state.
Winds could reach more than 100 kilometres per hour in southern and mountain areas and a westerly change is expected to hit south-west Victoria about midday.
Senior forecaster at the weather bureau, Terry Ryan, says rain has fallen in Melbourne and south-west Victoria this morning, but winds are strengthening.
"The winds have picked up and we've got winds about the higher areas of about 50 to 60kph with gusts higher, so far mainly about the Grampians and Alpine areas," he said.
However the weather bureau's Peter Blake says the strong winds are now not expected to reach the state's north.
"We've actually cancelled the severe weather warning for the Mallee and northern country, so it's really only southern and mountain areas where we're expecting the gale force winds," he said.
Mr Blake says they are expected to gust up to 100kph.
"The alpine area is showing winds of 60 to 70kph, with higher gusts, and we'll see that continued strengthening of the winds during the morning," he said.
Around 5,000 firefighters are on alert across the state.
Four fires are still burning, with the Kilmore East-Murrindindi blaze causing the most concern.
Department of Sustainability and Environment spokesman Denis Ward says overnight crews have been making good use of the cool and calmer weather.
"The fires have been quiet overnight, in particular down at (Wilsons Promontory), the Bunyip complex, and the Kilmore East-Murrindindi South complex," he said.
"The same with the Kilmore East-Murrindindi North complex, where there's been a fair bit of work being done overnight again as there has been the last two or three nights."
He says the northerly winds should reach the complex by mid-morning.
The four fires are not posing a direct threat to private properties this morning.
Fire crews are working on containment lines at the blazes near Healesville, Tonimbuk, Murrindindi and at Wilsons Promontory.
Police are investigating the site of a deliberately lit fire in the south-Melbourne suburb of Chelsea.
Police attended the fire shortly after midnight which burnt out an area of scrub land before it was extinguished by the CFA.
Senior Constable Marty Beveridge says the police are struggling to understand why fires are still being lit.
"We're constantly putting out warnings about the dangers of fire itself, regardless of times like this where we've just put an SMS out regarding extreme weather expected over the next couple of days," he said.
"We're just sort of racking our brains and wondering why there's people out there that continue to have an obsession with fire."
Around 400 state and private schools, kindergartens and childcare centres are closed today due to the bushfire threat.
Each of the affected schools contacted parents and told them not to send students.
All state school camps have been cancelled for the week.
The CFA has maintained its awareness message for each of the four major fires, but no urgent threat messages have been issued overnight.
Communities in the areas surrounding the fires have been told to activate their bushfire survival plans.
This includes residents in the Yarra Valley, including communities in the vicinity of Toolangi, Castella, Fernshaw, Healesville, Don Valley, Mount Toolebewong, Badger Creek, Woori Yallock, Seville, Wandin, Coldstream, Yarra Glen, Yeringberg, Gruyere, Dixons Creek, Steels Creek and Chum Creek. No properties in the Yarra Valley are under threat at this time.
In the Warburton Valley, communities include the vicinity of Launching Place, Yarra Junction, Wesburn, Millgrove, Warburton, Warburton East, McMahons Creek, Reefton, Gladysdale, Hoddles Creek, Yellingbo and Big Pats Creek. No properties in the Warburton Valley are under threat at this time.
The Kilmore East-Murrindindi fire may affect communities along the north-eastern side of this fire including Jamieson to Woods Point areas, Howqua/Macs Cove and Goughs Bay. Residents in the Eildon to Mansfield area may experience smoke from backburning, while significant smoke and some flame may be visible from the Eildon, Goughs Bay, Jamieson and Mansfield areas. These communities are not presently under any direct threat.
The Bunyip Ridge fire is burning in the Bunyip State Park and State Forest areas between Gembrook, Powelltown, Neerim Junction and Tonimbuk and is estimated to be approximately 26,200 hectares in size. The fire is not currently posing a threat to communities.