28 Feb 2009

Victoria bushfire threat eases with cooler temperatures

12:09 pm on 28 February 2009

Fears of the worst fire weather in the Australian state of Victoria since Black Saturday did not eventuate and temperatures were expected to remain cooler throughout the state on Saturday.

Temperatures had been expected to reach 39 degrees on Friday, but were milder than expected.

A high of 35 degrees topped Melbourne's temperature charts.

That allowed firefighters to continue to work on building thick containment lines and keep the four major fires still burning under control.

There were fears a cool change on Friday evening would bring winds and fan the four major fires that have been burning since the 7 February firestorms that killed 210 people.

Country Fire Authority state duty officer Alan Rankin said the westerly wind was a lot slower than expected and taking longer to make its way across the state, so should not present any significant challenges.

Meanwhile, a Country Fire Authority firefighter was taken to hospital on Friday for observation after suffering smoke inhalation while battling a minor blaze in Beaconsfield, southeast of Melbourne.

That fire was jumped on quickly by personnel and put out within two hours.

Several other small fires that flared up on Friday were quickly put out by firefighters.

While the weekend is expected to be cool, extreme fire conditions are expected on Tuesday.

Alan Thompson, the information officer with the New Zealand firefighting contingent in Victoria, says the fire danger will remain high until the first heavy rains arrive and there is no hope of that in the near future.