‘Most significant fire day this season’: Authorities on alert as wind, heat set to sweep state

Victoria is bracing for the most dangerous fire conditions since the Black Summer fires more than three years ago as the mercury is tipped to reach the high-30s in Melbourne on Saturday.

A total fire ban has been declared for all central and western parts of the state, with only the north-east and both Gippsland zones not under a fire ban.

CFA chief officer Jason Heffernan said hot, dry and windy conditions meant Victoria was facing “what is likely to be the most significant fire day the state has seen this season.”

“And probably, significantly, the biggest fire day that we’ve seen since that devastating [2019/2020] bushfire season,” Heffernan said at a press conference on Friday.

Extreme fire danger ratings have been issued for the Wimmera, South West, North Central and Central districts – the latter takes in Melbourne, where temperatures are forecast to reach a maximum of 37 degrees on Saturday.

“This is only the fourth time a fire weather warning has been issued for Victoria this fire season. And the first time we’ve issued one for more than two districts,” Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Keris Arndt said.

“If we do reach that 37 [degrees], that’s the latest in the season we’ve seen temperatures that high since 2007.”

Deputy Emergency Management Commissioner Chris Stephenson and Heffernan said authorities were concerned that high levels of grass growth could result in fast-moving fires. Experts have warned months of heavy rain amid the La Niña weather pattern earlier this summer had increased the fuel load for potential blazes after grasslands dried out.

“In the last couple of weeks, we have seen an increase of grass fires occurring in the outer metropolitan ring of Melbourne [and] around Ballarat through to Ararat and the like,” Heffernan said.

“The outer metropolitan urban ring of Melbourne is somewhat of a concern because that is where the bulk of our community members live in this environment.”

A total fire ban has been declared across western, northern and central Victoria on Saturday.Credit:Penny Stephens

Northerly winds are predicted to hit the south-west of the state early on Saturday morning, before spreading to the rest of the state and reaching up to 90km/h, according to the weather bureau.

However, Arndt said a cool change was expected to move across the state in the afternoon, hitting far south-west Victoria in the early afternoon and reaching Melbourne in the evening.

“It will cool down after tomorrow and potentially in the CBD by tomorrow night. So, there will be relief,” Stephenson said.

“But during the day people, should take care, seek shade, drink plenty of water, and generally take care of yourself.”

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