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Victorian heatwave: State on high fire alert as temperatures climb into the 40s

By Simon Galletta, staff, Saturday January 6, 2018 - 15:23 EDT
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Victorians flocked to the state's coast to try and keep cool as temperatures soared. - ABC

Temperatures across parts of Victoria have soared above 40 degrees Celsius with the mercury expected to rise further ahead of a cool change forecast for Melbourne this evening.



The CFA issued a state-wide fire ban in the hot and dry conditions, with wind gusts of up to 80 kilometres per hour.

Emergency authorities are watching for potential bushfires and urging residents to be prepared and to avoid heat stress.

About 3,000 homes have lost power in several parts of Melbourne, including Caroline Springs, North Warrandyte, Warrandyte, Kangaroo Ground Beaconsfield.

Two people have been taken to hospital in near drowning incidents.

A woman in her 30s is in serious but stable condition in Geelong Hospital after being pulled from the water at Anglesea, on the state's west coast.

A primary school-aged girl was pulled from the water at a public pool in Clifton Hill and taken to the Royal Children's Hospital in a critical condition.



Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford said if a fire breaks out, the emergency services are ready.

"Our emergency management agencies are well prepared with 49 aircraft on standby," she said.

"We're asking everyone to be sensible and be conscious that it is going to be a really nasty, hot one.

"We have additional paramedics available. We have our fire services at the ready to respond and respond quickly."

But the extreme heat will not last too long. The weather bureau's senior forecaster Michael Logan said a squally change would sweep across the state, reaching Melbourne late afternoon or early evening.

"It'll be quite a marked drop," he said.

"Temperatures will probably still be up around the 40 degree mark and within an hour or two they'll probably be back around the low 20s, so it will be a really pronounced change with the temperatures as it comes through."



North-west Victoria to top state temps

Mildura and Birchip were headed for a state high of 44C, with nearby Ouyen, Swan Hill and Kerang all expected to reach 43C.

Further south, the weather bureau forecast Horsham would reach 42C and Stawell 41C.

With a severe weather warning in place, the CFA's Mildura operations officer Rob McNally has urged residents to stay alert.

"When a fire starts it'll run hard, it'll impact on a lot of people, covers great distances, in a short space of time, impacts on road networks, electricity, mobile phones," he said.

"If you're planning to leave, please leave early."

He said with the region being a popular spot for holidaymakers, it was important they stayed informed.

"For all our interstate visitors that don't know the landscape, if they can get the VicEmergency app on their phone, that's the best way to stay in contact, or through their local media outlets," he said.

"But if a fire does break out, it's best to leave early because once the road networks are cut, that impedes their travel and makes it very dangerous."



Drowning warnings

With large crowds expected to flock to the Murray River over the weekend, Victoria Lifesaving urged people to take care.

There have been nine drowning deaths in Victoria this Summer, with four since Christmas, making it the worst summer in a decade.

Mildura lifesaver Josh May, who watches over Victoria's only patrolled inland beach, Apex Beach, said people should not be fooled by the calm waters.

"On Boxing Day there were a couple of people that swam over the New South Wales side of the river that we had to go and get on our paddleboards cause they were too tired to come back," Josh said.

"There's a lot of hidden snags under the water too, so people have to be aware of that."




For Clare Reed and her Great Dane, Scooby, the river is the number one go-to spot on hot days.

"I moved here from Adelaide a few years back and there's the beach there — the proper beach — and I miss that," she said

"But the river's pretty good."

Ms Pulford said people should also be taking precautions to protect their pets in the hot weather by giving them plenty of water, giving them shade or keeping them indoors and never leaving them inside cars.



"It can get so hot that they can die within minutes. Don't walk them on really hot footpaths," she said.

"I think you need to be particularly conscious if you've got an older dog, or one with a big, shaggy coat or a very short nose."


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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