High Winds Intensifies Bush fires Near Warrnambool With Loss of Houses and Land
Up to a dozen homes have been destroyed as out-of-control bush and grass fires continue to burn in western Victoria.
An unknown number of sheds and pieces of farm machinery, as well as hundreds of beef and dairy cattle, have been destroyed, with approximately 40,000 hectares of land damaged.
About 280 firefighters are working on the blazes, with assistance from 29 aircraft. Many of the fires were started by lightning, Victorian emergency officials said.
- Up to 40 towns issued with emergency warning or watch and act alert
- Corangamite Shire Mayor says fires took them by surprise
- Evacuation alert issued for Hawkesdale, north of Warrnambool
There are currently three emergency alerts for Carlisle River, Simpson and surrounding areas, Cobden and Camperdown. An emergency warning for Hawkesdale has been downgraded to a watch and act.
At one point, up to 40 towns were issued with an emergency warning or watch and act alert as hot weather and strong winds caused numerous blazes to flare across farmland around Camperdown, Warrnambool and Hamilton
Two of the largest fires — one 3,000 hectares in size and the other 6,500 hectares in size — are now being pushed east because of the wind change, said Andrew Morrow, the incident controller at Colac.
Elle Moyle, from Gazette, north of Warrnambool, told 774 ABC Melbourne that the fire started about five kilometres north of her place about 9:30pm or 10:00pm — and came “really close”.
She said they were hosting a wedding on the property at the time.
“We smell smoke and within 10 minutes the sky was red,” she said.
“Then it was licking at the door very quickly.
“We were actually unfortunately hosting a wedding on our property, so we had to evacuate 150 people, which was a bit scary.
She said her brother’s house and two nearby hay sheds were lost in the blaze.
Scott Page, a CFA volunteer, was called to fight the Gazette fire, and saw three houses destroyed by fire.
He said the fire was moving quickly.
“It was screaming through alright,” he said.
“By the time we got there we were just flanking it off and just trying to protect a few houses around there.
“The damage was already done. There were already a couple of houses gone when we got there.
“Then the embers lit up around the third house and they had to pull out. It just got too hot and dangerous.”
Corangamite Shire Mayor Jo Beard told local radio that the fires took them by surprise and that a lot of houses and sheds had been lost.
“Well there’s some massive properties, dairy properties, I’ve heard of people having to bunker down in dairies, in the pits in the dairies,” she said.
An evacuation alert was issued for Hawkesdale, north of Warrnambool, with residents being urged to seek shelter at The Arc Gymnasium Stadium.
State duty control officer, Peter Baker, said the worst is possibly yet to come.
“The key areas at the moment is a place called Gazette, south of Hamilton; Garvoc, east of Warrnambool and Terang; and a place called Gnotuk which is just to the west of Camperdown,” he said.
Craig Lapsley, the Emergency Management Commissioner, said the message for Victorians today is although it is cooler, the winds will continue to cause problems.
“We will see potentially more fire in the landscape today,” he said.
Emma Tyner, a spokesperson with Powercorp, said thousands of people in the area are without power. More than 6,000 people are without power in the Terang area alone.
Firefighting aircraft have joined in the fight and five relief centres have been set up at Camperdown, Colac, Warrnambool, Port Campbell and Cobden