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

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Warnings issued as hot weather leads to first catastrophic fire danger rating since black summer while cool change brings some relief to Melbourne

Emergency warnings have been issued over fires burning in and near the Grampians national park, with some communities told to take shelter, as a cool change brought respite to scorching temperatures in Melbourne.

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 3.47pm, warned those in Dadswells Bridge, Ledcourt and Roses Gapthat another fire in the park, near Mt Stapylton, was also out of control.

“The bushfire is travelling in a south-easterly direction towards Dadswells Bridge,” the warning read.

It said it was too late for residents in the areas to leave.

“You must take shelter now.”

Thunderstorms hit parts of Melbourne on Tuesday afternoon, with residents in the north-west and south-east reporting large hail stones.

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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 for parts of Melbourne, which included Croydon, Scoresby, Poowong, Liliydale, Mt Dandenong and Pakenham. The alert said damaging winds and large hailstones were likely, with a 115km/h wind gust recorded at Fawkner Beacon shortly after 3pm.

There were also several other “advice” warnings across the state, including a watch and act for a grass fire near Newtown, Scarsdale and Staffordshire Reef.

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.