News State Victoria Emergency services fight out-of-control bushfires in challenging conditions in eastern Victoria
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Emergency services fight out-of-control bushfires in challenging conditions in eastern Victoria

More than 20 fires are burning along Victoria's Great Dividing Range in steep, inaccessible terrain. Photo: Supplied/DELWP
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Fires burning along the Great Dividing Range in eastern Victoria are behaving in ways expected in January and February as fuel loads are so dry.

Emergency services say wind and increasing temperatures will pose a challenge to controlling more than 20 bushfires in East Gippsland and north-east Victoria.

Fires burning in East Gippsland include an 850-hectare fire near Bruthen and a 600-hectare fire burning near Gelantipy. While in the north-east of the state, a 300-hectare fire is burning in the Mount Bogong area.

Authorities have a declared a total fire ban in the Mallee and Northern Country in western and central Victoria today with those areas expecting warm temperatures and a gusty south-westerly change this afternoon.

Emergency services are asking people in East Gippsland to pay attention to fire warnings. Last Thursday lightning strikes and hot, gusty winds fanned more than 60 fires across Victoria.

Advice level warnings are in place for fires across the region, including near Bruthen, W Tree, and Ensay.

Dry lightning starts a fire east of Bruthen last week, burning 800 hectares of bushland. Photo: Supplied/Beneteau Johnson

Emergency Management Victoria incident controller Peter Brick, in Bairnsdale, said today’s warmer temperatures and winds would create challenges for firefighters.

“We’re experiencing really dry conditions out in the forest. All the fuels are available to burn. So it’s creating some real difficulty for firefighters on the ground,” he said.

“Really we’re into summer conditions already.

“So people should be considering all the things you would normally do in summer for the bushfire season. So prepare your properties, ensure you’ve got multiple ways of getting good information.”

Bruthen Neighbourhood House manager Annie Pearce said some residents left town at the weekend due to the amount of smoke.

“There’s a bit of anxiety,” she said.

“I think locals are naturally concerned but they are enacting their fire plans and moving stock as needed.

“We are pretty old hands at fires here in Bruthen.”

Walking tracks closed in Mount Bogong High Plains

Glenmaggie Wines owner Tony Dawkins urges landholders to practise their fire plans, after he lost a shed last week. Photo: Supplied/Tony Dawkins

Several fires continue to burn in the Mount Bogong area, which were also ignited by lightning last Thursday.

The fires have grown, the largest being an estimated 300 hectares.

“Today will be a difficult day, and we expect the coming days to be quite challenging, but we have plenty of resources on site,” Forest Fire Management Victoria Hume deputy chief fire officer Aaron Kennedy said.

“The remote locations of these fires are proving to be challenging for our crews and we fully expect them to burn for a number of weeks as firefighters work hard to contain them.”

All walking tracks at Mt Bogong have now been closed.

“We don’t want any hikers up there this week at all, so we are asking people stay off there,” he said.

‘It’s no good being half ready’

Meanwhile, a fire at an East Gippsland winery last week has prompted its owners to urge landholders to prepare for a bad fire season.

Tony Dawkins from Glenmaggie Wines thought he was prepared. But his experience on a day of high fire danger, where he lost a shed and a fire moved into nearby scrub, made him rethink what being prepared for fire really meant.

“I’ve got no excuse for not being better prepared,” he said.

“I’m an ex-firefighter. I do have the equipment here, I had it mostly set up. It’s no good being half ready. You have to be ready.

“The pump has to be hooked up, fuel has to be in it, it has to go first or second pull, you need to practise — otherwise you’re kidding yourself.”

-ABC