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Battling the Grampians blaze

Towns in Victoria's west remain under threat from a massive bushfire that has already claimed one life. Nine News.

PT2M2S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-3112f 620 349

Victoria has passed the worst of the week’s extreme bushfire conditions but fire authorities have warned residents near Grampians National Park to remain on alert.

A fire burning out of control in the Grampians in the state’s west is no longer directly threatening townships in the area.

Residents will be allowed to return to their homes Saturday afternoon.

Darren Jasper and Mick Dalziel monitor the fire on a property next to the Grampians National Park.

Darren Jasper and Mick Dalziel monitor the fire on a property next to the Grampians National Park. Photo: Justin McManus

Four properties have been destroyed in the popular tourist destination, with numerous sheds and fencing burnt and up to 7500 livestock affected.

Most will need to be euthanised.

Four homes have been lost in Victoria’s Grampians region along with numerous sheds and Fire authorities downgraded the blaze that was threatening the holiday township of Halls Gap to a watch and act about 1.20pm on Saturday.

The Age NEWS Twitter pic posted by Channel 7 News journalist Michael Scanlan of the view of the Grampians  Bushfires from Stawall, Victoria. Photo taken at 2pm by Michael standing next to the Channel 7 satellite truck as they entered the town. Fri 17th January 2014.

Twitter picture posted by Channel 7 News journalist Michael Scanlan of the view of the Grampians Photo: Michael Scanlan

However, the 52,000-hectare fire is still burning out of control and may still take several days to bring under control.

Earlier in the day, Premier Denis Napthine said emergency grants would be made available to residents affected by bushfires across the state.

Dr Napthine spent Saturday in the Grampians meeting with residents at relief centres in Horsham and Stawell and touring bushfire affected towns.

Fire has broken out of the Grampians National Park and into farmland. Click for more photos

Grampians bushfire

Fire has broken out of the Grampians National Park and into farmland.

  • Fire has broken out of the Grampians National Park and into farmland.
  • Grampians fires
  • Grampians fires
  • Bushfires threatening farm buildings on Rose Gap Rd.
  • The southerly wind change comes through stoking the fire.
  • The southerly wind change comes through stoking the fire.
  • A CFA strike team heads north along the Western Highway. Photo by Justin McManus

He said he was disappointed that some people had not acted on advice to evacuate.

’’We had an unfortunate tragedy at Roses Gap where a local resident stayed when they were given advice to leave and they lost their life,’’ he said.

’’That will be fully and properly investigated … but it should be a very salient lesson to everybody that when you are told to leave, there is a huge risk to your life and property, your life is worth saving by leaving early and making sure you are safe.’’

The fire has reportedly claimed a number of properties in Dadswells Bridge and Brimpaen, but the full extent of property losses was not yet known.

The CFA has said it is now believed that a woman whose body was found in Rose Gap on Friday did not die as a direct result of the fire.

It is believed the woman suffered from a medical condition that was exacerbated by the extreme heat.

More than 30 fires continue to burn across the state, including in Gippsland.

Concerns that the fires in the state’s far east could merge and create a half-a-million hectare inferno have eased.

Halls Gap business owner Paul Antonio, from the Brambuk Backpackers and Aboriginal cultural centre, said it was a relief the town had been spared by an earlier than expected wind change on Friday afternoon.

‘‘The fire only got to about two kilometres from the town,’’ he said.

‘‘There’s my livelihood and a lot of other staff’s livelihood, so it was a bit of a worry. But we got through it again.’’

The town of Ouyen was also spared from the flames, which came out of nearby Bronzewing Flora and Fauna Reserve.

A sudden wind change about 8pm on Friday caused the Grampians fire to burn erratically for several hours with firefighters battling dangerous winds and conditions that were the worst since Black Saturday.

Incident Controller Andrew Morrow said the strong winds had caused the Grampians fire to spread in a northerly direction towards St Helen’s Plains and closed the Western Highway.

Firefighters were able to control the blaze by 5am on Saturday after earlier warning residents in the area to flee.

Incident Controller Andrew Morrow said the CFA spent Saturday morning assessing the full impact on homes.

"A focus will also be on clearing any tree hazards, however residents need to be aware that this remains a danger after any fire," Mr Morrow said.

"Today we’ll also look where we can return those who have evacuate their homes."

The Department of Environment and Primary Industries estimated about 500 people had attended relief centres at Horsham, Stawell and Ararat since the fire began on Wednesday.

It is suspected to have been started from lightning.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said on Friday that the Grampians fire was so intense it had ’’created its own weather’’, triggering lightning and spot fires around Halls Gap.

Mr Lapsley said the Grampians fire could be seen from kilometres away and had ’’a 12-kilometre convection column … that is creating its own weather’’.

By Saturday afternoon, all the state’s major warnings were at a ’watch and act’ level.

Of most concern was the Club Terrace fire in Gippsland, which remains out of control. 

There is still a possibility that several small fires in the area could join and create a large bushfire.

The CFA has urged residents to remain on alert.

Two relief centres are open at P-12 College, Tamboon Road, Cann River and Orbost Secondary College.

Meanwhile, arsonists have been blamed for lighting a dozen of the 70 fires that burned across Victoria on Friday.

Victoria Police chief commissioner Ken Lay said it was ’’unbelievable’’ that people were deliberately lighting fires in such dangerous conditions, and said arsonists had targeted areas on the urban/rural fringe.

’’When people are lighting fires on days like today there is a very, very real risk that people may die.’’

With AAP