Emergency Warnings Issued As Bushfires Ignite Across Victoria
Homes and lives are under threat with ten emergency alerts issued for out-of-control blazes in Victoria's far east and northeast.
Sirens from firetrucks in Mallacoota went off at 8.30 on Tuesday morning as the bushfire reached the edge of the town.
Resident Don Ashby told ABC Gippsland Radio the sky had turned black over the town.
“The agreement was when all the trucks turn the sirens on that was when the fire hit and everybody had to go and get down to the waterline and get underwater,” he said.
"It's like the darkest, darkest night."
A fire is also threatening lives and homes in Melbourne's northern suburb of Bundoora, which is also under an emergency warning.
An evacuation alert was put in place, but residents have now been told it is too late to leave.
An emergency warning, the highest possible alert, was issued for a blaze west of Goongerah on Monday afternoon and an evacuation order remains in place.
Another emergency warning also was issued on Monday afternoon for a fire burning 13km from Walwa in the northeast, near the NSW border.
The bushfire is travelling from NSW River Road towards Walwa.
Areas in East Gippsland have also experienced 'pyrocumulonimbus', or fire-generated thunderstorms, said Andrew Tupper, State Manager of the Bureau of Meteorology Victoria.
The fires give them an extra push in conditions that would normally be suitable, or marginally suitable, for thunderstorms," he said.
"As they give them that push, the thunderstorms can develop more rapidly than they normally would, they carry fire embers aloft, which can help the spread of those fires, accelerate the spread of those fires.
"They can push those embers down with the severe wind gusts that the thunderstorms generate, and overall they can greatly contribute to unexpected fire spread in unexpected directions."
Emergency warnings have also been issued in East Gippsland for the W Tree fire, Ramrod Creek, Bullumwaal, Clifton Creek, Deptford, Mount Taylor, Waterholes and Fairhope.
The highest alert has also been issued for Suggan Buggan, Buchan, Buchan South and Sunny Point.
Suggan Buggan is a border town, also threatened by out-of-control blazes in NSW.
Similar alerts were already in place on Monday for the Ensay-Barmouth Spur fire, and the Wingan River fire.
The Ensay-Barmouth Spur fire had been two fires but joined overnight and has burnt about 100,000 hectares.
"It is quite an extreme day for us, really the first really bad day that we've had on this group of fires since they started on November 21," East Gippsland fires incident controller Ben Rankin told reporters at Bairnsdale.
"(It's) comparable almost to Black Saturday in some ways, if the forecast does eventuate as given to us."
Despite the plea for 30,000 holidaymakers in Lakes Entrance to leave on Sunday, the town is unlikely to be impacted by the fires, he said.
Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said people should not drive.
"It's too dangerous to be on the roads. The fires in East Gippsland are too dynamic, dangerous and continue to spread very quickly," she said.
The Princes Highway is closed between Cann River and Genoa, while the Great Alpine Road between Bruthen and Ensay could be shut for up to a fortnight.
Seventeen fires started in Victoria overnight because of dry lightning, Neville said.
Temperatures soared into the 40s across Victoria on Monday, with a total fire ban in place across the state and extreme fire danger ratings in most regions.
The temperature hit the forecast top of 43C in Bairnsdale, before a cool change is due in West Gippsland on Monday night and East Gippsland on Tuesday morning.
Organisers of New Year's Eve events across East Gippsland have cancelled the fireworks displays - but not the other activities - at Nicholson River, Metung, Paynesville foreshore and Lakes Entrance.
The hot, windy conditions in Melbourne have also prompted the closure of the Werribee Open Range Zoo.
In South Australia, fires continue to burn on Kangaroo Island and a catastrophic level of danger has been declared for the Adelaide Metropolitan, Yorke Peninsula, Mount Lofty Ranges and the state's Mid North.
Adelaide is forecast to reach 40C and firefighters are particularly worried about the potential for breakouts in the blaze burning in the Adelaide Hills.
Severe thunderstorm warnings have also been issued for parts of the South Australian coast, adding to the risk of bushfires from lightning strikes.
- Bairnsdale City Oval: MacArthur Street, Bairnsdale
- Sale Showgrounds: 1 Maffra-Sale Rd, Sale
- FULL - Cann River Community Centre: 13 Princes Highway, Cann River
- FULL - Orbost Community Sports Centre: 40 Arnold Street, Orbost
- Omeo Recreation Reserve: Park Street, Omeo
- East Gippsland Shire Council's customer service centre: 18 Mechanics Street, Lakes Entrance
- Delegate Country Club: 3074 Delegate Rd, Delegate, NSW
- The Bairnsdale Library on Service Street and the East Gippsland Shire Council's customer service centre on Orbost at 1 Ruskin Street are open for heat relief.