Cool spell to follow Thursday's scorcher
Melbourne set to swelter with thermometers peaking in the high 30s, but the cool change will herald a prolonged relief from the heat.PT1M0S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2d6ci 620 349 January 23, 2013
Firefighters are strengthening containment lines around blazes across the state as they prepare for rocketing temperatures on Thursday.
Residents of Gippsland and the high country are on alert as the fires continue to burn and threaten communities and the mercury is tipped to hit 37 degrees.
Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the massive Gippsland fire burning about 200 kilometres east of Melbourne could threaten a number of communities if it broke containment lines.
"There's been significant control lines put in to make sure we're ready for tomorrow," Mr Lapsley told Fairfax radio on Wednesday.
"If that fire was to come out, it could come out in a number of spots which will threaten a number of different communities including Toongabbie, across to Heyfield again (and) Coongulla."
In preparation for the hot weather predicted for Thursday, meetings have been held in local communities, with fire brigades active on the ground, Mr Lapsley said.
Mr Lapsley urged locals to make an early decision on whether to leave or stay and defend their properties.
Parks Victoria has closed 10 state forests and parts of the Alpine National Park until further notice because of bushfires burning in the region.
Falls Creek, Hotham Heights and Bogong State Forests are among those closed.
However, Parks Victoria spokeswoman Zoe Furman said the remaining state forests and national parks would be open.
"The policy is that unless advised otherwise, parks are open," she said. "There are lots of parks that are open and people should be enjoying them.
"But people need to check our website before they travel, particularly if they're going into an area where fires are active. It's very important that people check."
Melbourne and bushfire affected regions will reach 37 degrees on Thursday followed by temperatures in the mid-20s on the long weekend.
That's a pattern that will be followed by most of the state. Even Mildura won't reach the 30s on the weekend, despite a forecast top of 41 for Thursday.
The Country Fire Authority will release total fire ban ratings for the state's regions later this afternoon.
The Gippsland Power football team were flown to safety yesterday when a bushfire ignited as they were hiking to the peak of Mount Feathertop.
Head coach Nick Stevens said 37 players and staff had to be rescued in three helicopters about 4pm on Tuesday.
"From the last chopper it was probably within a couple of minutes of coming through," he said. "It was only on that last chopper ride that it got a little bit hairy because we were against the clock.
"There were only about two boys who were a little nervy about it all. The rest of the group were fine."
Mr Stevens said the group phoned triple-0 after noticing a small fire as they hiked to the peak.
"By the time we got up to the top it had turned into a raging bushfire."
- with AAP