Image Upload

File size must be less than 2Mb

You must have online publishing permission or full ownership of this image

File types (jpg, png, gif)

  • Hero image
    Susan Byron took this photo from Callawadda yesterday.

Fire crews battle Grampians fires

By Lauren Henry

Two bushfires in the Grampians National Park remained out of control late yesterday, prompting emergency warnings to several communities advising residents it was too late to leave.

The fires came after emergency services warned yesterday would be the worst fire-risk day for five years, with a catastrophic fire warning for the Wimmera.

A Total Fire Ban, TFB, declaration was made for the Wimmera, Mallee, Northern Country, Central, South West and North Central fire weather districts.

Article continues below

Temperatures in the high 30s, and as high as 41 in the northern Wimmera, combined with windy conditions, including gusts of up to 98 kilometres at Mt William, and dry lightning made conditions ripe for fires.

A bushfire at Terraces Fire Line, east of Lake Bellfield, prompted an emergency warning in the early afternoon for Bellfield Settlement, Halls Gap, Pomonal, Bellfield and Lake Fyans. 

At about 3.30pm, after a wind change, an emergency warning, with advice that it was too late for people to leave, was issued for Bellfield, Lake Fyans and Pomonal. 

A watch and act message was also issued for Jallukar, Lake Fyans and Pomonal.

A bushfire, which started south-east of Mt Stapylton, within the Grampians National Park, caused an emergency warning at 3.45pm for Dadswells Bridge, Ledcourt and Roses Gap, again with advice that it was too late to leave and for those communities to take shelter.

Authorities closed the Western Highway between Horsham and Warracknabeal-Stawell Road intersection.

Late yesterday, the fire had crossed the highway and impacted parts of Dadswells Bridge, with the fire travelling east and threatening homes.

An emergency warning was issued for the communities of Dadswells Bridge, Glenorchy, Ledcourt, Roses Gap, St Helens Plains and Wal Wal.

State Control Centre spokesperson James Todd said there were no reports of any loss of houses or buildings, as of late yesterday.

Water bombers flew from Avalon to help ground crews with the fire-fighting effort, which involved a multi-
agency response with fire fighters from Forest Fire Management Victoria, Parks Victoria and the Country Fire Authority, CFA.

“They have good access to Lake Bellfield and Lake Wartook in the north. There was a lot of activity, particularly with choppers, picking up water and dumping their loads,” he said.

Emergency Management Commissioner Rick Nugent said it had been a ‘very challenging day’, with hundreds of volunteers required to fight the fires.

As The Weekly Advertiser went to print late yesterday, the fire situation was still unfolding, but conditions were expected to ease after sunset.

CFA chief officer Jason Heffernan said yesterday afternoon that he expected warning levels to change as the day progressed.

“We’re not out the woods yet – we expect the frontal system to move through,” he said.

“The situation is very dynamic.”

Relief centres were established at Grampians Community Health Centre, Stawell, and Alexandra Oval Community Centre at Ararat for displaced residents.

Authorities warned on Monday the communities of Rainbow, Warracknabeal, Minyip, Rupanyup and Murtoa would be most at risk.

About 60 schools across the Wimmera closed due to the catastrophic fire danger rating.

Various schools closed in Apsley, Dimboola, Edenhope, Goroke, Great Western, Halls Gap, Horsham, Jeparit, Kaniva, Marnoo, Minyip, Murtoa, Natimuk, Navarre, Nhill, Rupanyup, St Arnaud, Stawell and Warracknabeal.

All country buses were cancelled, while childcare centres and kindergartens also closed.

The fire risk also prompted several cancellations of sporting competitions, including Ararat’s harness meeting, scheduled for last night.

Harness Racing Victoria chief executive Matt Isaacs said it was a ‘decision that was not made lightly’.

“HRV must consider the welfare of our participants, both people and horses, and while the temperature is high, it isn’t the issue, it is the extreme fire ratings for the regions surrounding this race meeting that are prompting the cancellation,” he said.

The catastrophic fire danger rating also prompted V-Line to cancel its coach services across the Wimmera.

Some businesses, particularly in the Grampians region, either shut all day or closed early.

Grampians National Park, Little Desert National Park, Wail State Forest, Grange State Park, Mt Arapiles State Park and other public land areas were also closed to the public.

The entire February 14, 2024 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!