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Victorians urged to 'leave and live' ahead of weekend of critical fire danger

Kathy Lord, Friday February 7, 2014 - 20:30 EDT
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There is particular concern about East Gippsland where fires are already burning in remote bushland. - ABC licensed
ABC licensed image
Two significant bushfires are burning in the Snowy River National Park ahead of the dangerous fire conditions forecast for this weekend. - ABC licensed

Victoria's emergency services are on the highest level of alert ahead of a weekend of severe fire danger across the state.

Total fire bans have been imposed for and all operational fire and emergency staff are on alert.

While conditions are not the same as Black Saturday, Victoria's Chief Fire officer says there is no room for complacency.

His warning comes as crews battle a number of grass fires across the State.

The state has sweltered through the six warmest January daytime temperatures on record, after a significant heatwave stalled over south-eastern Australia.

Sunday is expected to be awith severe to extreme fire danger across the central and eastern parts of the state which are extremely dry.

There is particular concern for parts of East Gippsland where fires are already burning in remote bushland.

In some cases the overnight lows may stay as high as 30C.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley says any fire that starts could be significant because the state is so dry.

"We are concerned about the conditions, we are concerned about the state of Victoria and we rely heavily on the community to have a (fire) plan," he said.

The fire threat coincides with the fifth anniversary of the deadly Black Saturday fires.

"It's severe and extreme. If it was Black Saturday it would be a code red, it's not a code red day," said Mr Lapsley.

"However saying that Victorians should be very mindful of the fact that it's a two days of very hot weather.

"I think that the turning point is the fact that its extremely hot over Saturday night across Victoria."

Emergency Services Minister Kim Wells says all Victorians must take the fire danger warnings very seriously.

"It is crucial that all Victorians living in high fire danger areas must understand their fire risk and people must rely on more than two sources of information," he said.

"The message is very simple: Leave and live. Leave and live."

Victorians are urged not to call triple-0 over weekend unless it is a genuine emergency, as the ambulance service is expecting a big spike in calls for help from the elderly and cardiac patients.

"If you don't have a medical emergency or you don't have a trauma emergency [we're telling you] not to call triple-0," spokesman Paul Holman said.

"We are there for emergencies and those life-threatening conditions.

"Consider other alternatives before you call triple-0, like a GP or nurse on call."

Andrea Peace from the weather bureau says there is some relief in sight.

"We actually are starting to see the first hint that we could be breaking some of these hot conditions with the potential for some tropical moisture to move into the state by the end of next week," she said.

"We've got a lot to get through before then."


© ABC 2014

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