20 Dec 2015

Day of fire continues in Australia

10:00 pm on 20 December 2015

Ten homes have been destroyed in Victoria's southwest and a community in the north remains under threat from a fire still burning out of control near the border with New South Wales (NSW).

Firefighters work to contain a bushfire near Scotsburn, South of Ballarat in Victoria, Sunday, Dec 20.

Firefighters work to contain the bushfire at Scotsburn near Ballarat on Sunday. Photo: AAP

A southwesterly change sweeping across the state today was yet to reach a fire at Barnawartha, where residents of Yackandandah, Wooragee, Leneva and Leneva West were being told to leave immediately.

It was unknown if any homes had been lost in the blaze that burned through Barnawartha on Sunday.

Ten homes were confirmed lost, with two others damaged and 23 sheds destroyed, by a fire that took residents by surprise at Scotsburn, near Ballarat.

State Control Centre spokesman Graeme Baxter said the threat to Scotsburn had eased but the fire had left a big impact on a small community.

"The speed at which this sort of fire can travel can be quite frightening," Mr Baxter said.

Victoria's Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley earlier said the volatile conditions at Scotsburn caught many off guard.

Three Country Fire Authority (CFA) crews, in two separate incidents, were lucky to escape when their vehicles became trapped after a storm cell ran into the smoke plume at Scotsburn, pushing the fire to the west while the winds came from the north.

"That actually caught firefighters out," Mr Lapsley said.

The trapped crews activated the sprinklers over the trucks and huddled under fire-retardant blankets until the danger had passed.

Firefighters battle a bushfire near Wandin, east of Melbourne.

Firefighters battle a bushfire near Wandin, east of Melbourne, on Saturday. Photo: AAP / David Crosling

It was believed the Scotsburn fire was started by a spark from machinery operating in a paddock.

Crews were also battling fires, all started by lightning, near Lorne in the Otway National Park, near Buxton and in East Gippsland on Sunday afternoon.

Mr Baxter said the danger to those near the Barnawartha fire should pass later this evening as the cool change reached the north.

The change brought relief to much of the state and conditions were expected to settle for the next few days.

"It's time to draw a breath," Mr Baxter said. "Things will be much calmer and cooler."

The weather was expected to start warming up again on Christmas Day.

However, Mr Baxter said it was too early to say if a total fire ban would stop Christmas barbecue lunches.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews applauded firefighting efforts and said this weekend was another example of fire crews putting their lives on the line to protect Victorians.

no caption

Firefighters were called to over 300 fires in the state on Saturday, including this fire near Wandin. Photo: AAP

- AAP / ABC

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs