Bushfire warning issued as Victoria braces for scorching Saturday

A bushfire alert has been issued on the Great Ocean Road as Victoria braces for the most dangerous day for fire conditions since the Black Summer fires more than three years ago.

Eastern View and Memorial Arch residents near Lorne on the state’s south-west coast have been told to prepare to evacuate before severe winds begin and potentially cause a benign nearby bushfire to become an out-of-control blaze.

CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan told Channel Nine northerly winds were expected to hit 90 km/h in elevated parts of the state on Saturday with the temperature expected to hit the high-30’s, causing challenging firefighting conditions.

He said the Eastern View fire was currently under a watch and act message, but asked locals to prepare their bushfire survival plans.

“It has been burning for a few days. It is under control, but because of extreme fire conditions and unique nature of the communities on the Surf Coast, the watch and act with advice of leave early was issued last night,” he said.

Total fire bans are active for western, central and northern parts of Victoria on Saturday – only the Gippsland and north-east areas are exempt. Extreme fire danger ratings have also been issued for the Wimmera, South West, north Central and Central districts.

Heffernan warned at a press conference that Saturday’s weather represented “the most significant fire day the state has seen this season”.

“And probably, significantly, the biggest fire day that we’ve seen since that devastating [2019-20] bushfire season,” he added.

Melbourne is expected to hit 37 degrees before a cool change hits in the evening.

Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Keris Arndt said Saturday was only the fourth time a fire weather warning has been issued for Victoria this fire season and the first for two or more districts.

“If we do reach that 37 [degrees], that’s the latest in the season we’ve seen temperatures that high since 2007,” he said.

Authorities warned those in Melbourne’s outer suburbs to be vigilant due to the risk of fast-moving grass fires. Heffernan singled out the Sunbury area to the city’s north-west as an area he was “particularly concerned about”.

“We are asking residents on the urban fringe: If that fire does start and you do see that, just simply walk two streets back,” Heffernan said on Friday. “You will be safe if you do walk those two streets back. It will keep the roads free and allow emergency services to get into the scene.”

Victoria is bracing for the most dangerous fire conditions since the Black Summer fires.

Experts have warned months of heavy rain amid the La Niña weather pattern earlier this summer had increased the fuel load for potential blazes after grasslands dried out.

“This season has the sting in the tail and [Saturday] is the sting,” Heffernan said.

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