AS the mercury rises to a high of 36 degrees today in the Latrobe Valley, authorities have reminded Gippslanders the region faces increased fire danger until at least Friday afternoon.
They have also warned residents to remain on high alert for changing conditions which might intensify current fires.
The Department of Sustainability and Environment, and Country Fire Authority, have warned if the Aberfeldy-Donnely fire, which has plagued Gippsland for the past week, breaches control lines in today’s dangerous conditions it could impact on the townships and districts of Toongabbie, Glengarry and Tyers.
A warning has also been issued for Walhalla, Erica and Rawson.
For residents who choose to evacuate, relief centres opened at 8am today at the Moe Town Hall in Albert Street and the Traralgon Little Theatre on the corner of Grey and Kay streets.
The fire has already affected communities in several Gippsland towns, resulting in one fatality and destroying 22 homes.
Fire crews have been working tirelessly since the weekend to strengthen containment lines ahead of the severe weather conditions expected today and tomorrow.
Yesterday aerial works aimed at strengthening control lines were conducted in an area north of Walhalla through to Cowwarr, causing excess smoke in those areas.
A joint DSE and CFA statement said crews had also continued to black out areas along the southeast edge of the fire and along the western side of Lake Glenmaggie.
Heyfield Incident Control Centre Deputy Incident Controller Adrian Gutsche told The Express residents in areas at risk needed to be “aware of their surrounds, even in hours of darkness” as he warned of the dangers of north-westerly winds expected tonight.
“Those on the southern side of the fire are of most concern… anyone on that side and within close proximity (to the fire) should have implemented their fire plans certainly over Thursday and into Friday morning”.
Yesterday the fire continued to spread from Aberfeldy along the eastern flank to Heyfield and up to Licola, Mr Gutsche said.
He said emergency service partners had worked hard to “get depth into containment lines” and clean tracks to ensure a “reasonable break in the fuels in the forest”.
“If we can reduce the fuels between the control lines and the main fires, it effectively holds it back and that’s where most of the work has been,” he said.
Despite those efforts Mr Gutshe said upper winds meant there was “always the chance of spot (fires) occurring” and as the temperatures soared and humidity decreased burning embers also posed a risk.
Transport Safety Victoria also placed an urgent exclusion zone on Lake Glenmaggie yesterday after some of the lake’s recreational users followed helicopters in their boats and jetskis, “posing a huge risk not only to the pilots but those on the water as well”.
For the latest information on the fires, visit the CFA website at www.cfa.vic.gov.au
Anyone wishing to help communities affected by the bushfire is asked to register their details on the emergency volunteer register at www.volunteer.vic.gov.au