People in Victoria’s east are being told to leave after an out-of-control bushfire more than tripled in size.
The fast-moving blaze at Briagolong in the Gippsland region covered 5000 hectares on Monday but strong winds have fanned the flames, with the fire stretching across about 17,000 hectares by Tuesday morning.
Emergency warnings have been issued for the surrounding areas, with people in neighbouring Stockdale and Stratford told to leave before conditions become too dangerous.
Those in Briagolong have been urged to take shelter because it’s too late to leave.
More than 650 firefighters are on the ground but wind gusts up to 80km/h are making containment efforts more difficult.
“We’re experiencing spot fires well ahead of the main fire front,” Country Fire Authority chief Jason Heffernan told ABC TV.
“Firefighters are doing their best to try and contain that fire but it is very challenging.”
Another out-of-control fire, which started further south near Lakeside Track within the Gippsland Coastal park, is also causing concern.
The fire is moving southeast after crossing the Longford-Loch Sport Road and people in Seacombe and nearby areas have been warned to take shelter.
Premier Jacinta Allan said a relief centre had been set up for affected residents at Sale, about 30km south of the bushfire.
Teams were yet to assess the fire-ravaged areas to determinate what assets have been lost, Ms Allan said.
“The fire season has come and it’s come early,” she told reporters.
“We’ve also got a couple of days of really wild weather so our emergency services are responding in some really difficult circumstances in all ends of the state.”
Mr Heffernan said a strong rain front should pass through the Gippsland region on Tuesday evening bringing about 30mm, in a reprieve for firefighters.
“There’s a bit of a running joke down here in Victoria that you can expect four seasons in one day,” he said.
“I’m going to tell you, today they’re not wrong.”
Some Apple iPhone users were still not receiving alert notifications from the Vic Emergency app but Mr Heffernan said authorities were working to rectify the issue.
He encouraged people to check multiple information sources to ensure they receive the most up-to-date advice.
The wild weather is lashing Victoria, with the Bureau of Meteorology issuing warnings for damaging winds and heavy rain for most of the state.
Ararat in western Victoria has already received 9mm of rain since 9am on Tuesday, while Wonthaggi has notched up 8mm and Ferny Creek and Scoresby have each received 6.6mm.
VICTORIA’S WILD WEATHER:
* State Emergency Service has received 144 calls for assistance
* 91 reports of trees down
* 15 reports of building damage
* Five reports of flooding
* Lilydale in Melbourne’s northeast has received the most call-outs