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‘Catastrophic’: Warning ahead of scorcher

‘Catastrophic’: Warning ahead of scorcher

Authorities are warning residents in Victoria’s west to evacuate their homes by Tuesday afternoon as catastrophic fire conditions are forecast to hit the region on Wednesday.

An extreme fire risk is forecast for the Mallee, Northern Country, North Central, South West, and Central districts on Wednesday as temperatures around the western Victoria bushfire zone are forecast to reach 38C.

A catastrophic fire danger rating is in place for the Wimmera on Wednesday as an out of control bushfire in Bayindeen near Ballarat continues to burn.

The bushfire has burnt more than 21,300 hectares and destroyed six residential homes and 10 outhomes since it first began on Thursday and up to 600 firefighters have continued to battle the blaze overnight.

A total fire ban has been put in place in the Mallee, Wimmera, South West, Central, North Central, Northern Country districts for Wednesday.

A watch and act warning remains in place for Amphitheatre, Bayindeen, Ben Nevis, Chute, Elmhurst, Eversley, Glenlogie, Mount Cole, Mount Lonarch, Raglan, Main Lead and Waterloo with VicEmergency warning residents it is not yet safe to return.

“Conditions will be significantly worse on Wednesday so leaving now is your safest option,” a VicEmergency warning said.

“Do not return to your home until a Safe to Return notification is issued.”

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan said extra “fire support assets” will be arriving from NSW ahead of Wednesday to help support fire crews.

“Those additional resources will be stationed around the Ballarat and Halls Gap area, particularly given the active fire that remains in that area,” Ms Allan said.

“The aircraft capacity will be at 66 aerial assets that will be available as well.”

An additional 105 NSW firefighters will arrive in Victoria on Tuesday, with five strike teams and 25 additional firetrucks sent from NSW to be positioned in Ballarat and Ballan.

A large air tanker will also be placed at Avalon Airport, a black hawk helicopter in Essendon and additional aircraft will be placed along Victoria’s northern border in NSW.

Emergency Management Victoria commissioner Rick Nugent said Wednesday will be a “significant and challenging fire weather day for emergency services across the state”.

“Likewise with those areas rated extreme or catastrophic, if you live in a bushfire risk area, we are asking you to leave and to leave early,” Mr Nugent said on Tuesday.

“Leave tonight or leave tomorrow morning.”

Mr Nugent also warned the Bayindeen fire could run and spread as winds pick up and urged communities in Amphitheatre, Beaufort, Elmhurst, Lexton, Learmonth and Clunes to be aware of possible spot fires and ember attacks.

Residents in the area have been encouraged to evacuate.

CFA chief officer Jason Heffernan said “severe weather conditions” will lead to “dangerous fire conditions” tomorrow and encouraged residents to evacuate as early as possible.

“I do expect those fire conditions to come later in the day, so there is still time for communities to make sure that you prepare and get ready for tomorrow’s weather event,” he said.

“Particularly for those people in the Wimmera, the catastrophic area, fires will become very uncontrollable very quickly and no homes are designed to withstand those catastrophic conditions.

“If your plan is to leave early, you are requested to do so this evening or by tomorrow morning. I would not leave it any later than lunchtime because those weather conditions will become quite nasty from 12 o’clock onwards.

“We do anticipate the peak of the fire dangers and those winds and those temperatures to be later on in the day and may continue on well into the evening, through until about midnight as that weather system makes its way through to the central regions across to the Gippsland areas.”

Up to 100 schools and early learning centres are expected to be closed on Wednesday.

The Bureau of Meteorology said north-westerly winds ahead of a south-westerly change in the later part of Wednesday as well as temperatures set reach 38C will contribute to bushfire conditions.

“In the afternoon, we may see quite an escalation of the winds, which at the same time correlating with those high temperatures that we are expecting and even quite significantly above average, even for this time of year into the final days of summer,” a spokesperson said.

“We could see a rapid escalation of the weather, especially in the Wimmera where we do have a catastrophic fire danger rating for Wednesday.”

The Bureau said there is a chance winds could reach above 50km/h and thunderstorms producing dry lightning are possible for western regions.

“At the moment, really important that if people can get out and check their properties to date, just be ready for some of those higher temperatures tomorrow, and those winds that we’re seeing increasing into the afternoon as well,” a spokesperson said.

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