All western and central regions of Victoria face a total fire ban as a searing spring heatwave gives the state its first taste of the long fire season ahead.
Classic bushfire weather will hit drought-affected Victoria on Tuesday, with strong northwesterly winds gusting to 100km/h expected before a cool and largely dry southwesterly change from early afternoon.
The heat was already on for firefighters on Monday, with more than 100 gaining control of a small bushfire at Wensleydale, near Winchelsea, but not before it razed 10 hectares and destroyed a house. No one was in the home at the time.
Total fire bans have been declared for Tuesday in six districts – Central, North Central, Northern Country, South West, Wimmera and Mallee.
They affect metropolitan Melbourne and the regional centres of Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Seymour, Mildura, Swan Hill, Shepparton, Warrnambool, Hamilton and Horsham.
Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley says the forecast is a significant concern so early in the season.
“This wind is actually drying Victoria, and it will significantly set the scene for what is the summer ahead of us, and it’s very early,” he told reporters on Monday.
“It’s October, and the Bureau of Meteorology has reported that these are abnormal conditions for this time of year.”
Mr Lapsley said central and western Victoria had experienced drought-like conditions through winter and into spring, with many farm dams and creeks now dry.
He said 12 firefighting aircraft will be available on Tuesday, with a full fleet of 47 aircraft in service from December.
The worst conditions are expected in the Mallee and North Central regions, where extreme fire danger is forecast for the first time in Victoria this season.
Severe fire danger is forecast in the South West and Central districts.
Despite low to moderate conditions, total fire bans are still in place in the Northern Country and Wimmera.
Mr Lapsley urged people to avoid lighting fires and have bushfire plans ready. He also urged landowners to spend time in October preparing their properties for summer.
Meanwhile, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is investigating how its planned burn near Lancefield, which started on Wednesday, broke containment lines on Saturday and burnt about 100 hectares of public and private land and destroyed 1km of farm fences.
FIRE DANGER RATINGS FOR TUESDAY
North Central – Extreme
Mallee – Extreme
Central – Severe
South West – Severe
North East – Very High
East Gippsland – Very High
South and West Gippsland – Very High
Wimmera – Low to Moderate
Northern Country – Low to Moderate
WEATHER FORECASTS FOR TUESDAY
Melbourne – sunny, 35C
Mildura – hot and mostly sunny, 39C
Swan Hill – hot and mostly sunny – 39C
Horsham – sunny, 37C
Shepparton – sunny, 35C
Geelong – mostly sunny, 35C
Seymour – sunny, 34C
Albury-Wodonga – 34C
Bendigo – sunny, 34C
Bairnsdale – sunny, 34C
Latrobe Valley – morning fog then mostly sunny, 33C
Warrnambool – becoming windy, 32C
Ballarat – sunny, 31C