news

Victorian bushfires: Coastal communities urged to evacuate as conditions worsen along Great Ocean Road.

Residents in three communities on Victoria’s Surf Coast have been warned to evacuate their homes by 10:00am amid fears bushfires will flare again in hot and windy conditions later today.

A fire which destroyed dozens of homes over Christmas at Wye River and Separation Creek is still burning out of control on the Great Ocean Road, and residents in Kennett River, Grey River and Wongarra have been warned to leave, with hot northerly winds expected.

Victorian bushfires
Roadblock near bushfires at Skenes Creek in Victoria. Image: ABC News.

The “recommendation to evacuate” was issued by the Country Fire Authority (CFA), with temperatures expected to peak at 39 degrees Celsius later today ahead of a windy change.

The fire is currently in the Great Otway National Park (The Otways), just outside Kennett River in inhospitable terrain.

Five hundred firefighters are on standby with 20 more from New Zealand arriving to help in the next week.

By late yesterday many residents of Kennett River had already left.

Most residents said they knew this day could come and were well prepared to leave.

The CFA has declared a day of total fire ban for much of the state. A watch and act alert has been issued for the Wye River and Separation Creek fire.

The fire has grown by 500 hectares in the past few days to 2,800 hectares.

ADVERTISEMENT

Late yesterday the CFA’s Joe Buffone said Victorians needed to act early and make sure they were not trapped on the roads during bushfires.

“So we’re asking all Victorians to be vigilant tomorrow, to apply common sense, to go out and enjoy themselves tomorrow but please make sure you apply some common sense when it comes to fire,” he said.

‘Terrible fire burning’ behind residents

State control centre spokesman for the CFA, James Todd, said fire officials needed to get the area cleared as soon as possible.

“There’ll be lots of activity, there’ll be lots of vehicles and aircrafts,” he said.

“Obviously the firefighters need clear access to those areas.

“So the sooner we can get people off the roads and to safe areas, the better.”

It is going to be a stressful day for Stephanie Russell who runs a guest house at Wongarra.

She has decided to leave but said at the moment, there was no indication that it is going to be a horrific day.

“The sea is sparkling, the sky is clear. You can’t see any smoke. There’s no smell of smoke. It just looks like a normal day,” she told the ABC’s AM program.

ADVERTISEMENT

“And yet we know in the hills just behind us, there’s that terrible fire burning.”

Police earlier doorknocked residents and asked them if they were prepared to leave and took down their details.

“This morning they intend to come back and check that everybody has gone and if you’ve got the tape on the letterbox or on your gate then they know that you’ve left the premises,” Ms Russell said.

She said the bushfire threat could continue for a number of months and this may be the first of a number of evacuations.

Eye in the sky to give real time information on fires

Premier Daniel Andrews, Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett and Emergency Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley were at Moorabbin Airport this morning to inspect the new Firebird 300 helicopter being used to help fight the fires.

The helicopter is an “eye in the sky”, which is more stable than other helicopters, giving fire officials a clear picture of what is happening on the fire ground.

It was used on Christmas Day at Wye River and Separation Creek and was an invaluable resource, Mr Andrews said.

“This is a significant investment. The technology alone is more than $1 million,” he said.

“It’s part of the biggest air fleet we have brought to bear in any fire season in our state’s history.”

The Firebird 300 is just one of 60 different aircraft on standby to fight fires today.

“The new helicopter is something that’s faster, more agile, can fly multiple fire grounds,” Mr Lapsley said.

About 100 people live in the communities under the evacuation order and most will leave.

“I know it’s very frustrating, very difficult, often a particularly emotional thing to have to leave your home but those who have done the right thing, we’re very pleased with that,” Mr Andrews said.

“There’s a small number that have said they will stay to protect their properties. We know where they are. The fire control people know where they are and the strike teams will work with [them].

“If the fire hasn’t moved they will go back home but if it has moved and caused further destruction, they will have to make a decision then of when it is safe to go home.”

This post originally appeared on ABC Online.

© 2015 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. Read the ABC Disclaimer here.

00:00 / ???