CFA crews back on high alert as weather heats up

BALLARAT fire brigades will be on high alert as the mercury soars and winds blast the region today.

CFA operations officer Gavin Hope said it was “not a good day” for fires, with high temperatures and winds of up to 55 km/h from the north expected.

“Things are pretty dry out there because of the heatwave conditions we’ve had,” he said.

“Fires will spread rapidly and be very hard to control.”

A total fire ban has been imposed over the entire state so it is illegal to light a fire in the open air today.

Mr Hope also encouraged people to check their fire plans and keep an eye on the CFA website.

“Have a battery-powered radio handy and keep situational awareness around you,” he said.

“We advise anyone that’s elderly or frail to leave early.”

It comes after children driving a ‘paddock bomb’ farm vehicle sparked a fast-moving grassfire at Smythes Creek yesterday.

Four brigades raced to the Waddell Road fire at 12.45pm and spent half an hour bringing it under control.

“It’s lucky the crews got onto the scene early and stopped it crossing Waddells Road,” Mr Hope said.

“The grass was low but it lit a fire. If you’re doing wheelies in the grass, that can cause a spark.”

Mr Hope said an earlier fire at Berringa, south-west of Ballarat, was caused by a trail bike on Sunday.

He said people who drove in paddocks on high-fire risk days could face charges for recklessly causing a fire.

“You’re starting a fire by using a hot engine on a day of high fire danger,” he said.

“We really want to stress that people don’t go out with vehicles in paddocks.”

He said apart from arson, accidental fires were always a concern.

Old burn-offs which reignited and operating machinery in paddocks were some of the common causes.

rachel.afflick@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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