News State Victoria News ‘Emergency warning’ as bushfire rages near landmark Victorian town of Hepburn

‘Emergency warning’ as bushfire rages near landmark Victorian town of Hepburn

An airborne tanker disgorges i ts cargo of fire-retardant chemicals on the Hepburn inferno. Photo: ABC
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An emergency warning has been issued for an out-of-control fire at Hepburn Springs near Daylesford, north-west of Melbourne, as Victorian firefighters battle difficult weather conditions across the state.

The bushfire, which flared up yesterday evening after it was started by lightning on Wednesday, is travelling in a southerly direction, and Hepburn and the northern section of Hepburn Springs could be impacted at any time.

An evacuation centre has been set up in Daylesford and authorities have been door-knocking in the early hours of the morning. Leaving now is the safest option, authorities say.

Authorities also warned visitors to stay away from the area, which is a popular tourism destination.

A total fire ban is in place across Victoria as firefighters battling bushfires across the state brace for more hot and windy conditions.

Dozens of fire trucks and multiple aircraft are battling the blaze, which is travelling through a rocky gully towards Hepburn.

‘We could see a wall of fire’

Ben Joyce, whose home in Hepburn Springs backs onto the fire, said he did not wait for official warnings to evacuate after he was attending a show in the town and came out to see “a wall of fire”.

“We came out the front of the hotel saw a significant fire approaching Hepburn,” he said.

“Facing the gully, we could really just see a wall of fire, the tops of the trees were just catching alight and it was moving quite quickly.

“[It was] pretty scary, you could smell the smoke. Pretty intense.”
He said he evacuated his grandparents from a local nursing home this morning.

“There are quite a few people who are very nervous around there, waiting to be collected,” he said.

“The staff down there were really organised but obviously for the residents, who are quite elderly, it’s quite stressful for them having to shift all of a sudden.”

A local area commander said the fire had not greatly expanded throughout the morning and while locals may have seen a reduction in smoke, the emergency situation was still current.

“Our crews are having impact, particularly with the combination of ground crews and aircraft, being able to suppress the fire and hold the fire to where it’s currently at,” he said.

“But we’re still in the earlier part of the day and the hottest and windiest part of the day is yet to come.

“The predictions we have from our fire behaviour people are that if this fire is to expand, particularly out to the east, it’ll make a significant run.

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“There’s a number of large fires burning, particularly in Gippsland, so those fires will be under enormous pressure this afternoon as the winds and temperatures are elevated and the change proceeds onto those later in the evening.”

Grantville fire still ‘under pressure’

An emergency warning for a number of communities around the Grantville Nature Reserve on the Bass Coast was downgraded back to a Watch and Act yesterday evening.

“The fire at Grantville ran pretty hard yesterday afternoon again, so certainly firefighters worked really hard to keep that one in check, but it’ll be under pressure as well,” Mr Cook said.

On Friday, an emergency warning was issued for the same fire, before it was downgraded in the evening.

A firefighting chopper wheels towards the flames near Hepburn in Victoria.

A number of the fires across the state were caused by lightning strikes earlier this week, and firefighters fear more storm weather in the north could cause more problems today.

Mr Cook asked anyone who saw smouldering trees as a result of a lightning strike to contact the CFA.

“If people are in the areas where lightning has gone through, it doesn’t hurt to go out and check in their immediate community area for lightning that might be in trees,” he said.

“Sometimes these things will smoulder for days before they actually hit the ground and cause fires to run, so we’re really working with the community to actually help us get onto these fires before they take off.”