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Victoria bushfires: 18 homes damaged or destroyed in state's worst fires of season

Monday March 19, 2018 - 15:55 EDT
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There were no deaths or major injuries, but many lost property and livestock to the fires. - ABC

Eighteen homes and 42 sheds have been destroyed or damaged in Victoria's worst fires of the season, which ripped through the state's south-west on the weekend, destroying houses, property and livestock.

Watch and act warnings are still in place for grass fires at Terang, Garvoc and a bushfire near Gazette, but fire crews have been helped by favourable conditions overnight.

A watch and act warning for a grass fire at Camperdown has been downgraded to an advice message after the fire was contained.

About 200 firefighters remain on the fire ground and the blazes are burning within containment lines.

The fires, , have burnt through at least 14,000 hectares.

Residents in Terang, one of the worst-hit areas, , with flames up to seven metres high.

Hundreds of people attended a community meeting in Terang where one CFA official said he was "blown away" that no-one was killed in the ferocious fires.

At one point on Sunday, as hot weather and strong winds fanned numerous blazes around Camperdown, Warrnambool and Hamilton.

Victoria's Emergency Management Commissioner, Craig Lapsley, said fires were still burning but crews were making good progress.

"The firefighting effort has been very good as of day break yesterday and we'll do very well today," he told ABC News Breakfast.

"We expect to see those fires change their status sometime today, but we need the control staff to be spot on about what they're doing.

"They still have hotspots in them. And we still have wind, but nowhere near the wind speeds over the last 24 hours."

Mr Lapsley said were no deaths, missing persons or major injuries, but many farmers had lost livestock.

"To be in bed and say there's a fire — [and] these were fast-running fires — not to have death and major injury is a great outcome," he said.

CFA assistant chief officer Rohan Luke said 18 homes and 42 sheds had been damaged or destroyed.

It could have been much worse: Premier

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, who travelled to Cobden on Monday, said relief was available for people affected by the fire.

Hardship payments of $1,500 are being offered to people in relief centres and re-establishment grants of up to $40,000 may be available for people whose home is uninhabitable for more than a week.

"It's a tragedy for all those people who live in those homes but it could've been so much worse if not for the asset protections, the dedication, the skills and just the guts of these local CFA brigades," Mr Andrews said.

"They've done a fantastic job and being here today is about thanking them."

'It was like a hurricane'

Roma Britnell, the state MP for South West Coast, said she was forced to leave her home in Woolsthorpe, near Warrnambool, during "horrific" conditions on the weekend.

"When we started to smell smoke, [we] went outside and had a look and there was just a glow across the north-west horizon," she told ABC Radio Melbourne.

"We went for a walk up [the neighbours'] paddock to see what we could see past the trees, and fires were just spotting around us everywhere."

Ms Britnell said power outages meant she could not access water through an electric pump or charge her phone.

"It was really a horrific experience," she added.

"It was like a hurricane — it really was."


© ABC 2018

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