Victorian firefighters are bracing for searing heat and high winds as a major bushfire continues to burn out of control on Victoria’s surf coast.
A total fire ban is in effect for Wednesday in eight of Victoria’s nine fire districts, with strong, dry northerly winds and temperatures exceeding 40C in many areas.
No fires can be lit in the Mallee, Wimmera, Northern Country, North East, West and South Gippsland, Central, North Central, and South West regions.
Extreme fire danger in the Mallee, Wimmera and South West includes the area on Victoria’s surf coast where the 2500-hectare Wye River-Jamieson Track fire is burning.
The blaze remains in rugged forest country, but no property is under direct threat.
“It’s a very difficult fire to extinguish, the last parts of it, but we’re confident that the work that’s been done will hopefully contain it,” Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said on Tuesday.
Fire crews used Tuesday’s milder conditions to strengthen containment lines and prepare for Wednesday’s fire danger with the help of at least 350 firefighters and eight water-bombing aircraft.
Increased water-bombing is also planned for Wednesday, with firefighters supported by 57 water aircraft across the state.
‘Some things don’t always go to plan’
But as Victorian authorities were on alert, the West Australian government announced support for recent deadly bushfires in the south of the state.
Emergency services minister Joe Francis has defended the work of the firefighters and their management, in the face of mounting questions as to whether they were distributed effectively.
He says management, including sector commanders and incident controllers “may have made a mistake but they made the best call on the information that they had at the time and unfortunately some things don’t always go to plan”.
There will be a thorough review into every aspect of the bushfire and the way it was managed, he added.
A watch and act alert has been downgraded to an advice in the shires of Harvey and Waroona, where residents can return to their homes through vehicle control points – though it is still not safe for people in Preston Beach to leave.
High humidity and light rain is expected to assist firefighters on Wednesday, with moderate winds holding the blaze relatively stationary.