A 32-hectare bush and grass fire threatened Creswick yesterday afternoon, as more than 80 residents fled to emergency evacuation centres in the region.
Three-hundred firefighters in about 57 fire trucks, three dozers and five water bombing aircraft spent three hours controlling the blaze, which started at about 3.30pm near the Creswick Forest.
Incident controller Alfred Mason said the fire was caused by welding and spread through private land, across the railway line, into bush and then into pine plantations.
“It was a fast moving fire, very fast, and conditions were hot and smokey,” he said.
“We’ve used existing tracks through the pine plantation for the control lines.
“The aircraft were able to slow the fire down and stopped the head of the fire, allowing the ground crews to come in and extinguish the fire.
“With the aid of the aircraft they’ve stopped something that would have had significant impact on the landscape.”
A Watch and Act warning was issued to Creswick at 3.30pm, with erratic winds confronting fire crews battling the fast moving blaze.
Two people involved with the welder that caused the blaze were hospitalised with burns.
Ambulance Victoria spokeswoman Gabrielle Degenhardt said paramedics were called to a home at Bald Hills where two people in their 50s had received minor burns caused by radiant heat.
She said they were transported to Ballarat Base Hospital by road ambulance.
Meanwhile, more than 80 people took refuge at the Newlyn Recreation Reserve, which was set up as one of the evacuation points.
Police said among them was a group of dental manufacturing professionals on a conference at Novotel’s Forest Resort, and another group of school children.
A second evacuation centre was also established at the Wendouree Netball Centre in Norman Street.
At 5.20pm fire authorities warned Creswick could be put under threat due to a wind change affecting the area.
Hepburn Shire councillor Don Henderson said Creswick residents reacted quickly and calmly to warnings the bush and grass fire could threaten the town.
Speaking from the top of Watsons Hill, where he was monitoring the blaze at about 6pm, Cr Henderson said residents had wet down their properties and were carrying out their fire plans.
“They’ve all got their fire plans in place,” he said.
“I’m seeing smoke and aircraft in the sky. The smoke’s pretty thin now.
“There are a lot of crews out there. It’s been a pretty quick response.”
Cr Henderson said his house was about one-and-half kilometres from the fire but there were properties even closer.
The Maryborough train service was operating as a road coach from Ballarat yesterday afternoon, with the Ballarat to Maryborough train line closed due to the fire.
The CFA advised at 6.30pm that the fire was contained.
Authorities will monitor the site today and hope to fly aircraft over the area tomorrow to identify hotspots ahead of hot weather predicted for Thursday.