Residents angry over Victorian fire info
Residents forced to flee their homes during a destructive Victorian bushfire say authorities failed to keep them informed about the blaze.
Nine houses, including the 120-year-old historic homestead Carngham Station, were destroyed when the fire struck the Carngham area near Ballarat.
During a packed community meeting in nearby Snake Valley on Wednesday, residents were angry at not being able to find out information on the blaze, which is contained but still burning across 1300 hectares.
One woman told the meeting she fled her home to the local hall, but once there she was given no information about the fire.
She said there was no power and no television or radio in the hall.
Others at the meeting complained they did not receive emergency SMS alerts and the Country Fire Authority (CFA) website crashed when they were trying to get information.
The website experienced significant problems last Friday, but Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley has repeatedly reassured people the problem would be fixed.
Acting Premier Peter Ryan said he was aware of criticisms but noted the community meeting concluded with a round of applause from the 200-plus people there.
He said the emergency alert was issued about 10 times during the fire and had worked well.
"For the very, very, main part, the feedback from the community was that the alert worked and it worked well," he told reporters at the Snake Valley staging area.
He said the government would be looking to deliver emergency grants for people in need.
Mr Ryan said he understood problems with the website related to the maps and the issue would be examined.
Ray and Gayle Stone, who lost their home of 30 years, say they had no idea there was a fire in the area when they left their Carngham home to go to Ballarat on Tuesday afternoon and soon heard that Station Lane was alight.
"Then we heard that Carngham Station had gone up and we live across the road from Carngham Station so we knew we were gone," Mr Stone said on Wednesday.
"Shattered. Not a thing (left), nothing. We didn't know we needed to take anything. We didn't know there was a fire on the way."
CFA deputy incident controller John Athorn said the fire took hold quickly at Carngham Station after embers made their way into the restored home through the roof tiles.
"It got a fairly strong hold and there was nothing they could do about it," he said.
An emergency alert was issued for residents of Wallan, about 60km north of Melbourne, on Wednesday afternoon but later downgraded.
The five-hectare blaze took firefighters 2.5 hours to control.
CFA operations officer David Harris said it was believed the fire, which is still burning but under control, was deliberately lit.
Nearby, there were two other small grassfires at High Camp and Glenaroua, about 40km to the north of Wallan, he said.
In the state's southwest, fire crews are battling to get on top of the Kentbruck blaze before forecast severe fire danger conditions on Friday.
The blaze began in Kentbruck last Friday and is still covering more than 6500 hectares, including 1150 hectares of a blue gum and pine plantation.