- Grampians towns on emergency alert as fire rages
- Grampians resident lucky to escape fires
- Halls Gap residents begin evacuation as fire approaches
Arsonists have lit 12 of the 68 fires burning across Victoria, with firefighters battling dangerous winds and conditions that are the worst since Black Saturday.
Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the 21,000 hectare Grampians fire was so intense that it had “created its own weather”, triggering lightning and spot fires around Halls Gap.
The view of the Grampians bushfires from Stawell. Photo: Michael Scanlan, Channel 7
Mr Lapsley said the southwesterly change, which will come through this afternoon, would increase the threat of bushfires raging through the Grampians, which have already killed one person.
“There is a fair chance of losing property and even if people are caught in the wrong place, a life could be lost, or certainly injury.”
He said a small number of Halls Gap residents had decided to stay and protect their properties, taking on the risk of “intense and erratic fires” this afternoon.
A snapshot of a Weatherzone radar image - the Grampians fire is the large cloud on the left, while the Gippsland fire is at bottom right.
He said the Grampians fire could be seen from kilometres away and had "a 12-kilometre convection column... that is creating its own weather."
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.”
A fire at the Grampians.
Three grassfires are believed to have been deliberately lit in Epping, forcing the closure of the Hume Highway.
A 40,000 hectare fire is burning in the Mallee, which authorities expect will continue to burn through the weekend. “It will be a very difficult fire for firefighters to deal with,” Mr Lapsley warned.
Authorities are also concerned about a small fire in the Big River Country, which sits just north of Melbourne's water catchments.
Residents in some Grampians and northern Grampians towns have been told it is too late to leave their homes as an out-of-control blaze burns in a westerly direction. Photo: CFA
“At this stage it is a small fire and significant air assets are on it to ensure we can reduce where possible, the run of that fire,” Mr Lapsley said.
Mr Lay said he feared the release of these details would reveal the identity of the deceased in the tight-knit Roses Gap community. He said the woman was found in a house in Roses Gap and the death was “fire related”.
Emergency Services Minister Kim Wells said a fire burning out of control in Gippsland could soon reach half a million hectares.
“Sixty-eight fires are still going right across the state and we will have stronger winds later this afternoon,” he said. “These winds will be dangerous to the communities and to the firefighters,” he said.
“It could take some time to get into control.”