Ballarat region on full alert as high temperature sparks fire fear

FIRE authorities are on stand-by across the Ballarat region as sweltering weather conditions engulf the state.

With temperatures expected to reach the high 30s in Ballarat today and tomorrow, the Country Fire Authority has issued warnings for residents to be prepared.

Alfred Mason, operations officer for district 15 which  takes in Ballarat, said the past months had dried out thick undergrowth from the wet winter.

“Grass growth is high at the moment and when we look at the bush a lot of people are thinking it will be damp but the last couple of months have been very dry,” he said.

“The potential for grass and bushfires is probably as high as each other. There’s plenty of fuel and all we need is the ignition source and away we go.”

But Mr Mason said there was no need to panic, and that residents should be prepared instead. 

“We’re asking people to be aware of their surroundings, maintain a watch on the radio or check the CFA or DSE websites which regularly update,” he said. 

“We want people to realise that this is a summer day in Australia, we are in one of the highest risk areas in the world, it’s on our door step. 

“We shouldn’t be afraid of it but we should be aware of it and be prepared.”

Mr Mason urged residents to refrain from using machinery on high fire danger days.

He also said that recent grass fires started by campfires in Yandoit and Cape Clear had been extinguished, but that firefighters would keep checking the areas to make sure there were no underground fires.

CFA chief officer Euan Ferguson said the hot weather would see temperatures of up to 44 degrees reached in northern Victoria.

“We are looking at Fire Danger Ratings of ‘severe’ in most parts of the state on Friday with an ‘extreme’ rating in the south-west,” Mr Ferguson said.

“The grassland is 100 per cent cured. The north, west and south-west of Victoria are a concern where it has been dry for an extended period of time. Conditions are primed for fast moving grass fires.

“What this means is that people should consider leaving high risk bushfire areas early in the day as the safest option. People should also revisit their bushfire survival plans.”