18 Jan 2014

Huge fires destroy Australian homes

10:00 pm on 18 January 2014

Bushfires in Victoria have burnt through 100,000 hectares, but the danger to properties has now subsided.

An 800-hectare fire near Dunkeld in the Grampians, Victoria.

An 800-hectare fire near Dunkeld in the Grampians, Victoria. Photo: AAP / Facebook / Country Fire Authority

Four homes were razed in the state's worst conditions since Black Saturday in 2009 when 173 people died.

The fires of the past few days were mostly started by lightning, with 34 still burning on Saturday.

AAP reports that as conditions cooled on the back of a four-day heatwave, authorities downgraded all emergency warnings.

The firefighting effort will continue for days, but Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday he believed the worst was over.

Fires burned through thousands of hectares in Victoria's Grampians region.

Fires burned through thousands of hectares in Victoria's Grampians region. Photo: AAP / Country Fire Authority

The main fires are raging in the Grampians, the Mallee and Gippsland.

Four homes were lost in the fire that has burnt through more than 51,000 hectares in the northern end of the Grampians National Park and claimed one life.

Several sheds and many kilometres of fencing were destroyed and up to 7500 sheep were affected, most of which will have to be put down.

The tourist village of Halls Gap was saved from the fire's path on Friday by an earlier-than-expected wind change and by Saturday afternoon, the main threat passed and residents were to be allowed back home.

Authorities say a woman whose body was found at her Roses Gap property on Friday morning died as a result of a medical issue.

Crews are still battling fires in the Mallee region in the state's northwest and in Gippsland in the east, but authorities no longer believe the more than 30 fires raging out of control there will merge to form a 500,000-hectare inferno.

An evacuation order for Halls Gap is the first used since the evacuation policy came in after Black Saturday.

Premier Denis Napthine said authorities would examine how the evacuation went in the Grampians and said compulsory evacuation would not be likely to be introduced.

"I think that would be unworkable more than anything else."

He said the changes made since Black Saturday included better co-ordination of emergency agencies, which led to better handling of the extreme weather conditions than in 2009.

South Australia

In South Australia, 12 homes have been destroyed by fire.

An emergency warning was issued for residents at the small town of Truro on Saturday afternoon, as the Eden Valley fire made a run towards the Sturt Highway.

The SA Country Fire Service (CFS) warned that the blaze, which has burnt through more than 22,000 hectares since Friday, was putting lives and homes at risk.

But the CFS spokesman said crews had experienced a "pretty reasonable day" with milder conditions allowing firefighters to get the better of some blazes.

"We have had a day where we have been able to consolidate a lot of fires and nothing new has kicked off."

The CFS said the number of homes destroyed could rise as damage assessment crews were deployed. There has been substantial stock losses.