Fire crews on highest alert as Ballarat set to swelter  

BALLARAT is again set to swelter on Thursday.

And with the blazing heat comes the inevitable fire danger.

Temperatures are forecast to hit 37 degrees on Thursday with dangerous northwesterly winds also expected.

CFA district 15 operations manager Geoffrey Gray said fire crews would be on high alert, ready to respond to any incidents that arose.

The Incident Control Centre will be fully operational in Sebastopol, as will the region headquarters in Wendouree. There have also been planes flying over previous fire locations in Chepstowe and Blampied this week, monitoring any hot spots with infrared technology that still exist and are not visible to the naked eye.

“We are preparing as we do most times,” said Mr Gray.

“Our fire crews have done an excellent job so far in containing fires and we could be calling on them again.”

Weatherzone meteorologist Brett Dutschke said Ballarat was a “good chance to give 40 degrees a nudge”, in what could be the hottest day since Black Saturday in the city.

The official forecast is that Ballarat will reach 37 degrees, but Mr Dutschke said there was a real possibility that the mercury could soar even higher, particularly in areas just outside the Ballarat CBD.

He said if the temperature broke 39 degrees, it would be the hottest day in three years.

And if it broke 40 degrees it would be the hottest day since February 7, 2009 – Black Saturday.

With northerly winds also predicted, tomorrow is certain to be a day of high fire danger. The winds are expected to gradually swing around to the west and south, but not at the rapid change that fuelled last week’s devastating Chepstowe fire.

“There are going to be northerly winds throughout most of the day, but they won’t be overly strong,” Mr Dutschke said.

“It is certainly going to be the hottest day for at least a week.”

There is also a possibly of lightning strikes on Friday, although the temperature is expected to be a much cooler 25 degrees.

Mr Gray urged people to remain vigilant and keep up to date with information via the CFA website, radio and the bushfire information hotline on 136 168.