Never before in Victoria’s recorded history has it been so hot and windy so early in the fire season.
The unprecedented summery blast sent temperatures approaching 40C in parts of Victoria while northwesterly winds gusting to 100km/h were replaced in the afternoon with a dry, blustery cool change.
The conditions, reminiscent of a January or February heatwave, helped fan more than 100 bushfires with the worst threatening 190 homes near Lancefield, north of Melbourne.
Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley says the early taste of summer is a first for Victoria.
“This is the drying period that sets up the summer in Victoria,” he said.
“We have not experienced these types of temperatures or wind speeds in the first week of October in the history of Victoria, so it has taken us to a new space.”
He said weather forecasts show no significant rain is expected in Victoria this month, and residents should prepare their properties and survival plans now.
The change will cool temperatures but there is no rain and there is a risk it will intensify the fires that are already burning.
The State Emergency Service has attended more than 200 calls for fallen powerlines, fallen trees and minor building damage.
Premier Daniel Andrews is in talks with the federal government on increasing drought assistance, and bushfire fighting capabilities could also be increased.
“If the experts say they need more money, we need more resources, we need more air power then they will get that,” he told reporters.
He said Tuesday’s bushfire weather is a prelude to a potentially dangerous fire season.
“The `15/’16 fire season is here, now. It is absolutely on us, and we need to understand that this is going to be a long, hot, dry and dangerous summer, and people need to be very clear. You have to get your fire plan in order, and you need to do it now,” he said.