RESIDENTS FLEE AS FIRES THREATEN 130 HOMES
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.
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).