Victoria fires: blazes break out in Grampians as temperatures soar across state

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Fire warnings issued to communities in the Wimmera as hot weather leads to first catastrophic fire danger rating since black summer

Emergency warnings have been issued over fires burning in and near the Grampians national park, with some communities told to take shelter, as temperatures have soared into the 40s in parts of Victoria.

Two alerts were issued to communities near the Grampians national park in Victoria’s west on Tuesday afternoon due to two separate fires that were yet to be under control.

One, issued at 3.15pm, warned that a bushfire near Bellfield was not yet under control and travelling in an easterly direction towards the Pomonal township.

It said it was too late for Bellfield, Lake Fyans and Pomonal residents to leave and urged they instead take shelter.

“You are in danger and need to act immediately to survive. The safest option is to take shelter indoors immediately. It is too late to leave,” the VicEmergency warning read.

Another warning, issued at 2.30pm, warned those in Dadswells Bridge, Ledcourt, Roses Gap and Wartook that another fire in the park, near Mt Stapylton, was also out of control and travelling in a south-easterly direction.

“A south westerly wind change in the area will cause the fire to change direction towards Dadswells Bridge and Ledcourt,” the warning reads.

“Leaving immediately is the safest option, before conditions become too dangerous.”

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A catastrophic fire rating had been issued for the Wimmera for Tuesday – the state’s worst day for bushfire risk since the black summer of 2019-20. An extreme fire danger was forecast for the Mallee, Northern Country and Central districts, which includes Melbourne. A total fire ban is in place for much of the state.

A “watch and act” alert was also issued in greater Melbourne, urging people in the suburbs of Avalon, Frankston, Hastings, Mornington, Portarlington and Werribee to take shelter due to thunderstorms.

The alert said damaging winds and large hail are likely. A 122km/h wind gust was recorded at Avalon airport at 2.19pm.

There were also several other “advice” warnings across the state, including for a grass fire in Stockyard Hill, 50km west of Ballarat, and a bushfire in Icy Creek, located near Mt Baw Baw.

In Melbourne, temperatures reached 27C at 6am and had climbed to 35C by 1pm.

Belinda House, duty forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology, said the city was on track to reach 37C before a cool change was expected across the state from about 5pm.

In Avalon and Geelong, temperatures reached 39C just before 1pm, while the north-western town of Walpeup recorded 40.4C early Tuesday afternoon.

“There’s plenty of warmth out there. We’ve had some fairly fresh and gusty north to northwesterly winds coming down from the central district, so the heat is building,” House said.

“The south-westerly wind change will push across Melbourne around about 5pm and it’s on a diagonal – so Mildura and Wilson’s Prom will probably start to cool down around the same time,” House said.

She said shower and thunderstorm activity was expected ahead of the cool wind change.

About 38 schools and 17 early childhood centres have shut across the state and the Country Fire Authority’s chief officer, Jason Heffernan, said firefighters were prepared for “nasty conditions”.

Heffernan told ABC TV it would be some of the most dangerous grassfire conditions since 2019-20 – one of the most intense and catastrophic fire seasons on record in Australia.

Power providers also have crews on standby to respond to any outages caused by damage to poles and wires, the state’s energy minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, told reporters.

The emergency management commissioner, Rick Nugent, said Tuesday’s weather forecast, with some areas predicted to reach 40C, would be challenging.

Tasmanians were also being urged to prepare for an increased fire danger over the coming days.

The Tasmania Fire Service deputy chief officer, Matt Lowe, said current weather conditions combined with a dry landscape meant fires could spread easily and become difficult to control.

“TFS are putting a temporary hold on issuing fire permits in the south and north of the state until 2am Thursday,” he said on Monday.

South Australians were also bracing for a hot and dry Tuesday.

Total fire bans had been declared, with extreme fire danger ratings for Mid North, Riverland and Murraylands.

The South Australian Country Fire Service said “very hazardous” fire weather conditions were predicted.

The Bureau of Meteorology had also issued a heatwave warning for parts of Victoria, with conditions expected to ease with a cooler change from late Tuesday night through early Wednesday morning.

A severe heatwave warning was also in place for parts of Western Australia including the Kimberley, Gascoyne, Central West and Great Southern districts.