A RAPID moving grass fire west of Ballarat destroyed at least six homes and burnt out more than 1100 hectares yesterday afternoon.
The grass fire at Chepstowe burnt out homes mainly along Station Lane, notably the historic Carngham Station, which itself sits on almost 5000 acres of land. More than 250 DSE and CFA firefighters battled the blaze, which had a 17 kilometre perimeter and proved difficult to control with strong and unpredictable winds. Two firefighting helicopters also fought the fire, filling up with water from nearby dams.
Residents were forced to evacuate their homes between about 3pm and 4pm yesterday, many of whom were not allowed to re-enter their properties last night.
Parts of the Western Highway were also closed off, as the fire continued to spread towards Windermere and Burrumbeet.
The emergency warning from the CFA was officially downgraded about 9pm last night, although residents were still warned to exercise caution.
Many local residents gathered in nearby Snake Valley and the intersection of Carngham Road and Linton Road, watching as the eerie black smoke and red sky descended upon their homes.
In addition to the hundreds of firefighters, locals also did their bit to try and protect both themselves and neighbours.
Nineteen-year-old Marcus Grigsby and his two mates Todd Bradley, 18, and Jake Bradley, 20, drove around on the back of a ute putting out hot spots where the fire had already burnt through.
“We’ve had the fire brigade at our place numerous times and they’re such a big help so if we can help we will,” said Mr Grigsby. “There’s power lines down just down the road, there’s sheep that’s been burnt in the paddock . . . sadly a few houses have also been taken. It’s not really something you see every day.”
Six people were also hospitalised, two of which were taken to Ballarat Base Hospital with superficial burns and smoke inhalation. The fire was brought under control around about 9pm last night, although crews were expected to remain on scene through the night to monitor the area and ensure it did not reignite.