Weather to seal Licola's fate as blaze continues
Firefighters waterbomb the blaze near Dawson. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
NINE homes have now been lost in the fire blazing in Gippsland.
Police have upgraded the number of homes destroyed in the fire after making their way into Seaton. The roads in were hampered by fallen, burnt trees.
Fire fighters plan to take advantage of cooler weather conditions with low winds in their attempts to quell the fire which is burning out of control.
Locals gather near the firefront at Dawson. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
The small hamlet of Licola is still under threat from the blaze, despite cooler conditions and a drop in wind.
The State Control Centre re-issued a "watch and act" alert at 6.40am on Saturday morning telling residents that the fire front was heading towards Mount Useful and the nearby springs, close to Licola.
Strike fire fighting teams are defending the towns of Licola and Heyfield, as the fire heads in a north-east direction through the southern end of the Alpine National Park.
The fire is believed to be burning in 48,000 hectares and and is creating spot fires more than one kilometres away.
A State Control Centre spokeswoman said the fire fighters were hoping to take advantage of predicted lower temperatures and moderate winds to fight the fire.
"The conditions are relatively benign but it is fair to say that the fire itself is creating its own heat," she said.
"The fire has been pretty erratic and unpredictable and it still has a potential to run up the Macalister Valley, nearby to Lecola," she said.
Licola has about 20 fire fighters in the town and access through the main road is cut. Between 10 and 15 residents have stayed behind to defend the town.
Licola General Store owner Mary Winter said there was less smoke than Friday, but the fate of the town would depend on weather.
"We've been through fires before in 2006 and we've implemented the same precautions this time. We just hope they work," Ms Winter said.
Adam Wake, at the Licola Wilderness Village, said the town was monitoring the fire but was prepared.
"It hasn't reached us yet and we are still watching and waiting," Mr Wake said.
"The conditions were very favourable overnight, chilly even, and there was even a bit of moisture in the grass this morning," he said.
Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Richard Carlyon said milder cloudy weather was expected on Saturday in the Licola-Heyfield with temperatures in the low 20s and light-to-moderate south-west winds. Sunday is expected to have slightly warmer conditions, in the mid-20s.
He said hot weather was expected from Thursday afternoon with a hot northerly wind change. On Friday, the wind was expected to swing early to a south-westerly direction. Mr Carlyon said no significant rain was expected for the week.
The southern part of the Alpine National Park, Avon Wilderness, Glenmaggie Regional Park and Baw Baw National Park are closed.
The slow burning fire is travelling north-east from where is started at Aberfeldy and is travelling away from the Thomson Dam.
Community meetings will be held at Maffra and Heyfield on Saturday to update residents on the fire situation.
The first will be held at the Maffra Community Hall at 10 am and will focus on information about the areas of Winnindoo, Maffra, Maffra West Upper, Newry, Tinamba and Boisdale.
Heyfield Community Hall will have a meeting at 2pm and will focus on the areas around Dawson, Cowwarr Weir, Seaton and Glenmaggie.
A third meeting is planned for Licola and further details will be sent for this meeting once access to the Licola township has been made safe.
The fire has claimed the life of a man, believed to be in his 80s, who died when his car caught fire at Seaton, 200 kilometres east of Melbourne on Friday.
With CAMERON HOUSTON