FIRE BEATERS

RES­I­DENTS FLEE AS FIRES THREATEN 130 HOMES

Herald Sun - - FRONT PAGE - Pic­ture: JAY TOWN

A rag­ing grass fire threat­ened en ed more than 130 homes more than 130 homes in in Mel­bourne’ s outer west Mel­bourne’ s outer west yes­ter­day be­fore ae­rial tankers and fire­fight­ers brought the flames un­der con­trol

MORE than 130 homes west of Mel­bourne were threat­ened by an out-of-con­trol grass fire yes­ter­day.

Res­i­dents in Lit­tle River had to flee their homes shortly af­ter noon af­ter an evac­u­a­tion or­der was is­sued in Mam­bourin and Manor.

The emer­gency warn­ing was later down­graded to a Watch and Act alert and then to an Ad­vice mes­sage as the fire was con­tained.

The blaze was de­clared un­der con­trol about 8pm, and it was ex­pected that res­i­dents who had left would later be told it was safe to re­turn af­ter the area was as­sessed.

A cool change hit the fire zone about 10pm, but the hot weather is ex­pected to con­tinue to­day with a top tem­per­a­ture of 27C fore­cast.

The fire had three sep­a­rate ig­ni­tion points, lead­ing to con­cerns that it might have been de­lib­er­ately lit.

Emer­gency ser­vices com­mis­sioner An­drew Crisp said it was too early to de­ter­mine if the fire was sus­pi­cious, but con­firmed that Vic­to­ria Po­lice was in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

The fire be­gan at 11.45am. More than 250 fire­fight­ers, 50 trucks, seven he­li­copters and two ae­rial tankers were called in to bat­tle the blaze from ground and air.

Wind gusts of 45-65kmh fanned the flames across the train lines be­fore fire­fight­ers man­aged to slow their spread.

Struc­tural dam­age to a num­ber of sheds was re­ported, but it was un­clear whether any homes had been dam­aged.

At the height of the blaze,

flames were trav­el­ling about 9kmh. It had cov­ered 1240ha by 4pm yes­ter­day.

One fire­fighter was taken to hospi­tal af­ter suf­fer­ing smoke in­hala­tion.

There were no re­ports of other in­juries last night.

About 10 peo­ple fled to a cri­sis shel­ter in nearby Nor­lane.

The fire be­gan near Edgars Rd, north of Lit­tle River.

V/Line train ser­vices were halted for much of the af­ter­noon, as the fire spread across the rail­way tracks.

Train ser­vices re­sumed about 4.30pm, but com­muters faced ex­ten­sive de­lays.

Lo­cal res­i­dents re­ported see­ing thick plumes of smoke.

Par­ents were told to pick up their chil­dren from child­care as flames roared to­wards town.

Mr Crisp said the weather con­di­tions had pre­sented prob­lems for fire­fight­ers.

“We’ve had the heat and we’ve had the wind,” Mr Crisp said. “It is hot and peo­ple need to stay fo­cused.”

Emer­gency Ser­vices Min­is­ter Lisa Neville said the last two days had been dif­fi­cult for the state’s fire­fight­ers and those af­fected by the blazes.

“It’s been hot, dry and windy. It’s a re­minder to all of us that this sum­mer we’re go­ing to see more and more days like this,” she said.

“We need all Vic­to­ri­ans to take this se­ri­ously and be pre­pared.”

Fire­fight­ers re­sponded to 19 fires across the state yes­ter­day.

Dozens of peo­ple had to flee their homes on Thurs­day, af­ter a blaze threat­ened homes south of Bal­larat. The Scots­burn fire, which cov­ered 45ha, was brought un­der con­trol late on Thurs­day. Over the past two days, dur­ing which the mer­cury has soared past 38C, paramedics have also been called to 18 in­stances of chil­dren be­ing locked in­side cars.

“I’m not sure how many times we need to keep telling peo­ple … I just can’t un­der­stand the be­hav­iour where young chil­dren are left in ve­hi­cles,” Mr Crisp said.

As of last night, an Ad­vice mes­sage was still in place for Mam­bourin and Manor.

“There is cur­rently no threat to you, but you should stay in­formed and mon­i­tor con­di­tions,” a Vic Emer­gency mes­sage said.

An Ad­vice mes­sage had also been is­sued for Co­coroc, Lit­tle River, Point Wil­son, and Wer­ribee South.

Pic­tures: JAY TOWN, AL­I­SON WYND

Ah­mad Al­ja­mal in the re­mains of his shed (main); the Lit­tle River fire (above); a fire­man gets some re­lief (far left); a he­li­copter dumps water (op­po­site page); and CFA strike team leader Steve Brooke as­sesses the dam­age (bot­tom).

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