Second Man Killed In Victorian Bushfires As State Of Disaster Declared
Victorians in the state's worst-hit bushfire regions are being urged to leave as conditions are expected to deteriorate from Friday, amid news a second man has died in the blazes.
Premier Daniel Andrews on Thursday night confirmed the second death in East Gippsland, but could not reveal the man's identity.
Victoria Police said the man's body was found at a property in Maramingo Creek, near Genoa, by family on Wednesday evening.
"It is believed the man suffered a medical episode while fighting the fires," they said in a statement.
Earlier on Wednesday, family members confirmed that Buchan man Mick Roberts had died at his home.
Another 17 people remain missing in East Gippsland, none of whom are emergency services personnel.
The premier revealed the second death while announcing a state of disaster has been declared for six local government areas and three alpine resorts confronted by fires.
The declaration entails powers introduced in the aftermath of devastating 2009 blazes which have never been used before, including compelling people to evacuate.
Mr Andrews said they will send a powerful message to people in fire areas.
"If you can leave, you must leave. If you don't, we simply cannot guarantee your safety," he said.
"You may well find yourself isolated and cut off for an extended period of time after fire activity."
Areas covered by the declaration, which has been made for seven days, are East Gippsland Shire, Mansfield Shire, Wellington Shire, Wangaratta Rural Shire, Towong Shire, and Alpine Shire.
Mount Butler, Mount Hotham, and the Mount Stirling Alpine Resorts are also covered.
More than 50 fires are raging across the state with the worst burning predominantly in East Gippsland, the northeast and the alpine region.
Residents of those areas have been told they should leave, with temperatures set to creep up on Friday before exceeding 40C in some areas on Saturday as winds pick up.
Authorities have declared a total fire ban on Friday across East Gippsland and the Wimmera, North East and South West regions.
Emergency Management Victoria said people in northeast Victoria - including Ovens Valley, the Upper Murray, Mount Buller, and King Valley - may become isolated if they didn't leave by Thursday.
"You must get to a built-up area before Friday morning as the risk of fires increases after this time," the authority warned.
None of the blazes are currently burning above the watch and act level, the second-highest bushfire alert.
Emergency Management Commissioner for Victoria Andrew Crisp said lightning strikes in the northeast on Friday are likely to start new fires.
Unusually low humidity means the fire is also likely to travel during the night.
"The state's dry, it's really dry," Mr Crisp told reporters.
The military has been providing relief and resources for fire victims across East Gippsland and will help evacuate about 1000 people from Mallacoota from Friday morning.
A group of 39 firefighters and two liaison officers from the United States also arrived on Thursday to help respond to the Victorian situation.
Another 71 firefighters, 61 from the US and another 10 from Canada, are expected to arrive next week.
Temperatures are expected to peak in the high 20s and winds will be light, but that does not rule out more fire danger.
"There can be significant fire activity even when conditions are fairly light in terms of winds," Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Tom Delamotte told AAP.