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Total fire bans declared as weather bureau forecasts hot but erratic conditions for Victoria

Friday January 31, 2020 - 06:32 EDT
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Most of Victoria will see temperatures hit 40C over the next three days. - ABC licensed

A total fire ban has been declared for Victoria's central and western districts with hot, dangerous and erratic weather forecast across the state over the coming days.

Minister for Emergency Services Lisa Neville said the heatwave conditions that saw the mercury jump on Thursday were expected to continue until Saturday, punctuated by flash flooding, dust storms, strong northerly winds and an erratic change.

"We're seeing one half of the state largely in a severe fire danger area, and the other in very high danger area," Ms Neville said during a media conference.

"So, there are risks right across the state, and that's because we remain very, very dry. Our soil moisture is very dry. Our forests are very dry."

She said the conditions increased the risk of new fires starting in the west of the state and more activity in the 10 continuing fires, mostly in the East Gippsland region.

Meetings were being held in communities and areas at high risk but everyone in forested, fire-prone or grassland areas should be prepared and have a fire plan ready.

"If your plan is that you're going to wait until fire is near your doorstep and then leave, that is not a good plan," Ms Neville said.

Ms Neville added that during the coming hot days and nights vulnerable people such as the elderly and unwell should stay hydrated and remain in cool places and people should watch out for their neighbours.

Melbourne to feel more like Darwin

The top temperature for Melbourne is expected to hit 43C with temperatures as high as 45C expected further north.

Mildura can expect a top of 43C, Horsham 41C, Bendigo 43C, Shepparton 44C, Seymour 43C, Albury-Wodonga 43C, Warrnambool 39C, Geelong 44C, Ballarat 39C, Latrobe Valley 42C and Bairnsdale 42C.

The humidity is expected to be particularly oppressive on Friday night into Saturday, reaching up to 77 per cent in Melbourne.

"It's going to feel in some parts more like a build-up day in Darwin rather than what we're accustomed to in Melbourne," said Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Diana Eadie.

This humidity was expected to come with patchy rainfall, flash flooding, damaging winds and lightning, particularly in the south-west and central areas today and on Saturday before a cool change brings temperatures down on Sunday.

No campfires allowed

CFA executive director Gregg Paterson said the total fire ban would be in place for 24 hours from midnight tonight across the Mallee, Wimmera, south-west and central districts.

"It effectively means that no fires can be lit in the open air in those total fire ban districts, nor can fires be allowed to remain alight in those districts tomorrow," he said.

He said one of the CFA's greatest concerns was campers leaving fires alight along the Murray River.

"Also we're asking our communities across the whole of the state to remain vigilant tomorrow. We don't want new starts. We don't want new fires."

Not too late to make a plan

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said that he expected watch and act and emergency warnings to be issued for fires in the next 24 hours.

"We've had the benefit of some suppressed, benign conditions over the last few days. However, as we've heard, it's going to be hot, dry. We're going to see those northerly winds pick up."

He said there was still "some time to go" for this fire season.

"We've had fires the last two years in March, where we've lost property in this state," he said.

"So, we have still got probably another six to eight weeks to go in relation to some fairly active fire behaviour. So, it's not too late to develop your plan."



© ABC 2020

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