News State Victoria Residents told to evacuate as flames return to Victoria
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Residents told to evacuate as flames return to Victoria

australia bushfire
The Buffalo River Valley blaze has been whipped up by strong winds. Photo: Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
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An emergency warning has been issued for a fire at Mount Buffalo, in Victoria’s Alpine Region, with erratic southerly winds creating spot fires that are threatening communities.

Emergency authorities strongly recommended residents in Buffalo Creek, Buffalo River, Merriang, Merriang South and Nug Nug leave the area immediately.

Across the state there are a further 16 fires at watch and act level.

The emergency warning, issued at 8:50pm, said the fire was spotting into the Nug Nug area and was travelling in a northerly direction up the Buffalo Valley.

Fire crews and aircraft were actively working on the fire.

An evacuation warning, issued at 7:30pm, said if the fire started to produce its own convection column there would be “high potential” for spotting into the Buffalo Valley.

A relief centre is open at the Myrtleford Senior Citizens Centre on Smith Street, while the Latchford Barracks in Bonegilla is full and no longer accepting people.

Christine Andersen said conditions were bad when she left her property at Buffalo River around midday.

“I couldn’t see much in front of me from the smoke, [there was] ash everywhere and you could see the fires through the smoke down the road,” she said.

She is staying with her sister in nearby Myrtleford. It is the third time she has been evacuated this season.

“I’m just renting so I’m not going to stay … it would be awful to wake up in the middle of the night and have flames round the place,” she said.

Incident controller Michael Masters told ABC Goulburn-Murray wind speeds of up to 50kph combined with fire activity would increase the fire’s intensity “significantly”.

“For local residents, they would be well aware of what I’m talking about between three and four o’clock yesterday afternoon there was a really large plume development over the top of Mount Buffalo,” he said.

Mr Masters said intense heat would create a convection column, caused by air moving rapidly upwards and sucking fuel up with it, such as leaf litter, bark and small twigs.

“And the risk of that is there’s a lot of small pieces of burning material suspended in the atmosphere,” he said.

“The convection column can push through the inversion layer and actually lean over or be pushed over by the wind and those pieces of burning material can drop out in front of the fire front and start new fires.”

Evacuating area ‘the safest option’

Mr Masters said he hoped ordering people to evacuate towards Myrtleford was “an overreaction”.

“But given the topography there and the fact that there’s only really one road in, and one road out, for those communities, it’s the safest option.”

He said it was possible wind speeds combined with spot fires could stop people reaching safety, and he was not willing to take that risk.

 

Mr Masters said a convection column, caused by intensely hot air moving rapidly upwards and sucking fuel up with it, would create a danger of spot fires ahead of the blaze’s front.

“The convection column can push through the inversion layer and actually lean over or be pushed over by the wind, and those pieces of burning material can drop out in front of the fire front and start new fires,” he said.

Residents leaving the emergency area were reminded to take their pets, mobile phone and charger.

“If you are away from home, do not return. If you choose to stay, emergency services may not be able to help you.”

Relief centre opens in Myrtleford

A relief centre for evacuees was open at the Myrtleford Senior Citizens Centre on Smith Street on Friday afternoon, while the Latchford Barracks in Bonegilla is full and no longer accepting people.

Mr Masters told the ABC he hoped ordering people to evacuate towards Myrtleford was “an overreaction”.

“But given the topography there and the fact that there’s only really one road in, and one road out, for those communities, it’s the safest option.”

He said it was possible wind speeds combined with spot fires could stop people reaching safety, and he was not willing to take that risk.

“And I don’t think the community would want to accept that risk either,” he said.

Mt Buffalo Chalet being protected

“We’ve removed all the fine fuels from around those buildings and outbuildings and prepared them as best we can an eventuation of fire occurring near them.”

Other asset protection strategies include turning on sprinkler systems, filling water tanks and a 300,000 litre swimming pool, and deploying lines of fire retardant around the Chalet and other assets.

Historical items of significance were also removed and placed in secure storage.

Mr Masters said firefighters understood the historical significance of the Chalet “and its deep connection within the broader community”.

“That said, the preservation of the life, of both residents and firefighters, remains our highest priority and will not be compromised,” he said.

The fire has a perimeter of approximately 550 kilometres and is being managed from the Ovens Incident Control Centre.

Rain for NSW

Meanwhile in New South Wales, up to 100mm of rain fell on drought and bushfire ravages districts Thursday and Friday.

Sydney can expect between 20mm and 50mm of rain on Saturday and showers on Sunday after the city, and most of NSW, received a welcome soaking over the past two days.

The Halls Creek near the northern NSW town of near Bingara ran with water for the first time five years, while In the upper Hunter town of Scone, video footage posted on social media showed six-month-old calves jumping through paddocks as they experienced rain for the first time.

Bundarra in northern NSW recorded 105mm in the 24 hours to 9.00am at the town’s post office, and Moree recorded 51mm — the town’s best falls since March 2017.

Buladelah and Boonanghi on the mid-north coast recored falls of  112mm and 126mm respectively from of 9am Thursday to 9am Friday.

The Blue Mountains town of Bilpin, which was last week at the mercy of the massive Gospers Mountain mega-blaze, received 30mm of rain over the same period.

Smoke haze to re-emerge

Senior forecaster at the Victorian Bureau of Meteorology Dean Stewart said the haze will return.

“Easterly winds over the fire grounds are likely to push that smoke back into central areas from tomorrow,” he said on Friday.

“There is a bit of uncertainty as to how bad that smoke haze will be but nevertheless at least some smoke haze in the area tomorrow and Sunday.”

So far the blazes have burnt through more than 1.5 million hectares, 387 residential homes and 602 non-residential buildings.

Five men have also died during the fires.

There are 1500 firefighters and 45 aircraft working on the blazes.

Among them are 130 international personnel and three additional contingents from the US and Canada are arriving on Saturday, Tuesday and next Friday.

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