Fires rage as Victoria sweats through heatwave

Bushfires in the Grampians, triggered by lightning strikes on Wednesday night, are the main concern for the Country Fire Authority as Victoria enters the third day of a sweltering heatwave.

Several Wimmera towns have been issued with a ‘‘watch and act’’ notice by the CFA as firefighters struggle to control a large 6656-hectare bushfire burning 15 kilometres north-west of Yaapeet.

Warracknabeal, Jeparit, Kurnbrunin, Lake Hindmarsh, Lorquon, Lorquon West, Netherby, Nypo, Rainbow, Rosebery, Tarranyurk, Yaapeet, Yanac, Yellangip, Hopetoun, Kenmare, Pella, Brim, Beulah and Beulah West were issued with the Watch and Act at 10.27am.

‘‘There is a large 6656 hectare bushfire is in the vicinity of Goslings Road and (it) is being actively managed by ground crew,’’ the CFA said. ‘‘This bushfire is currently not yet under control.’’

Earlier on Thursday, a CFA spokeswoman predicted that overnight lightning strikes would cause more fires as the day progressed.

Besides the Grampians, fires in Gippsland were among those started by strikes.

‘‘The Grampians will continue to be the main focus today because more people are there than at the other areas,’’ she said.

About 8.30am on Thursday, fire crews were battling 39 fires across Victoria that are listed as ‘‘going’’, while a further 20 fires were listed as contained.

The spokeswoman said although there was no threat to tourists at this stage, they needed to keep updated on the fire situation.

‘‘At the moment where the fires are going, is deep into the national park, but it is an area that is frequented by a lot of people in summer,’’ she said.

Fire crews are also fighting two fires 15 kilometres apart at Hopetoun West and Nypo.

‘‘We don’t expect those to join together, but there is a watch and act on both of them,’’ the spokeswoman said.

The Nypo fire has already burnt 6650 hectares.

A fire burning at Kangaroo Ground, on Melbourne’s north-eastern outskirts, was brought under control on Wednesday afternoon.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said aircraft and on the ground firefighters would try to contain the fires by Friday.

‘‘The reason for that is tomorrow is the windy day in Victoria, today is very hot, but not a lot of wind, Friday is hot and windy and also has a southwest change,’’ he said.

A total fire ban has been declared for the entire state on Thursday.

Several other bushfires are yet to be brought under control by the CFA. The four biggest in terms of area are in the Mallee, at Yaapeet, Nowingie and Ouyen. Each is being handled by about five CFA trucks.

Medium-size grassfires are burning at Victoria Valley and Wartook and have not been brought under control. Eight trucks are dealing with each fire.

The two largest grassfires, at Franklinford and Harcourt North, were listed as contained and controlled just before 9am.

The Bureau of Meteorology said more lightning strikes were expected today. Melbourne is expected to reach 44 and 42 degrees over the next two days. The Mallee and Wimmera regions are expecting top temperatures between 44 and 46.

A gusty cool change will hit the state late on Friday afternoon and temperatures on Saturday will be markedly lower in much of Victoria.

With AAP

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