A fire in Victoria’s east is worse than the Black Saturday blaze that burned in the same spot 10 years ago, a firefighter says.
The blaze at Yinnar South, in the Latrobe Valley in central Gippsland, posed the most danger on Monday morning.
The fire increased to 1800 hectares overnight, power to the fire-affected area has been cut and emergency services say there is significant fire spotting.
The emergency warning is in place for Budgeree, Budgeree East, Jeeralang, Jeeralang Junction, Jeeralang North, Jumbuk, Yinnar and Yinnar South.
Residents are warned leaving now is the safest option, before conditions become too dangerous.
“Again, we are urging people to heed the advice in relation to that particular warning,” Emergency Services Commissioner Andrew Crisp told the Nine Network on Monday.
“If they need to get out and they can get out, to please do that. But Yinnar is not the only fire that we are concerned about. We have actually got 19 going fires across the state, mainly in the eastern part of the state,” Mr Crisp said.
“We have a challenging day ahead of us,” he added.
Overnight, an emergency warning was downgraded for the fire burning in and around Bunyip state park, about 65km east of Melbourne.
The fire was sparked by lightning strikes on Friday and has destroyed more than 10,000 hectares, while watch and act alerts also remain in place for areas further north east, including Licola and Dargo.
“The risk of lightning redevelops in the late morning with the chance of some showers and thunderstorms,” Bureau of Meteorology’s senior forecaster Christie Johnson said Sunday night.
While there was a chance of showers, it was hard to pinpoint where they would hit, and there would only be a few millimetres of rainfall, Ms Johnson said.
“It will be cooler and more humid on Monday which will help with the firefighting efforts,” she added.
Sunday night’s wind change is also raising concerns the blaze would change direction.
“We are certainly concerned with the change that’s going to come through … we know that will mean the eastern flank of the fire will become the head of the fire,” Mr Crisp said on Sunday.
“The Bunyip fire is worse than one that burned in the same spot on Black Saturday, the Country Fire Authority assistant chief officer Trevor Owen said.
Seven buildings, including three homes, were destroyed by Sunday afternoon.
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Two of those homes were in the Garfield North area near the Bunyip State Park, and a third residence was reduced to ash south of Morwell, fire officials confirmed.
Two homes were also lost in the Budgeree-Wilsons Promontory fires, incident controller for those blazes, Peter West told the ABC.
An emergency warning was issued for Yinnar South with the blaze growing to more than 1500 hectares and significant spot fires.
Victoria’s Department of Education and Training said 23 schools would be closed on Monday across the region, including primary schools in Churchill, Drouin and Yinnar.
Photos from the ground at the Bunyip Complex yesterday. I want to thank all of our crews who have worked tirelessly through the night on the number of significant going fires. Please look after yourselves in the difficult fire conditions. pic.twitter.com/x1M3IuvCvK
— CFA Chief Officer (@CFAChiefOfficer) March 3, 2019
Labertouche was expected to be affected by the fire on Sunday afternoon and about 30 homes were doorknocked and told to evacuate.
An emergency warning was issued for the Budgeree blaze on Sunday afternoon, with residents told it is too late to leave.
Posted by Paul Dobie on Friday, March 1, 2019
Campers and daytrippers had to be evacuated from Wilsons Promontory.
A watch and act remains in place for communities near Dargo and Licola in Gippsland on Sunday night.
The bushfire near Dargo is out of control and was travelling towards the Howittville and Shepherdson areas.
It is too late for residents in these areas to leave and the safest option is to take shelter.
The Licola fire was also started by lightning, but the fire was travelling away from the township on Sunday afternoon, Mr Crisp said.
The Bunyip State Park fire was also dangerously close to two electricity transmission lines linking the Latrobe Valley and Melbourne.
The company that operates Victoria’s electricity transmission network said supply could be exposed to risk.
Fire has already damaged power lines and poles in the Gippsland area with outages reported in Tonimbuk, Yinnar South and Budgeree.
Another hot day with significant fires putting pressure on a number of communities. Emergency services are well prepared. @DanielAndrewsMP @CFA_Updates. Please follow advice and use various sources for up to date information @vicemergency pic.twitter.com/17RmoIEGrb
— Lisa Neville (@LisanevilleMP) March 3, 2019
The hot and windy conditions are expected to linger until Wednesday.
At a media conference alongside Mr Crisp, Premier Daniel Andrews told people to follow warnings from authorities.
“Don’t put yourself in harm’s way and potentially add to the already considerable workload our firefighters have,” he said.
Robert Trigg, from Pakenham Upper, fled the Bunyip fire’s anticipated path with his wife and son, plus the family dog and three horses, to take shelter in Berwick’s Akoonah Park.
“This is potentially as bad as I’ve seen,” he told the ABC on Saturday afternoon. “We don’t expect to be going home soon.”
No deaths or injuries have been reported so far.
There are around 19 other fires still burning across Victoria.
— Corina (@corinashelley1) March 1, 2019
— Shayne (@shaynehoney) March 2, 2019