LINGERING scars from the 2015 Scotsburn fires proved all too raw when an out-of-control bushfire ravaged the area on Thursday afternoon.
Most residents from Durham Lead, Scotsburn and Buninyong who made it into the Buninyong township made the call to evacuate early because they chance luck after the last fire.
For Scotsburn mum Naomi Moore, the fire came as a surprise. Ms Moore had been anxious and beginning to plan ahead with forecast hot and windy conditions on Friday, only for her husband to call and tell her a fire was headed their way.
“This time was a bit scarier. The fire was closer and you could see more flames and embers landing near us,” Ms Moore said.
“Our kids know what to do. Our plan is really just to go. Our home is just not really defendable.”
We love our home, and we do know the risks living there. We don’t want to lose it, but lives lost don’t come back.
Ms Moore’s husband had checked the home’s fire pump and hose a night earlier.
The blaze broke out about 3pm near Nashs and Devonshire roads. Cause for the fire remains under investigation.
Ballarat Incident Control Centre operations officer Peter Kandlewis praised the heavy combined response to hit the fire hard to be contained within 26 hectares early in the evening.
This includes more than 300 personnel on the ground and significant aircraft operations, featuring the Hercules firefighter from Avalon, air cranes and three helicopters. Heavy bulldozers and graders were brought in to make breaks.
No homes or sheds were reported damaged in the fire at the time of publication and neither were there reported injuries or cattle deaths.
Residents say the area has dense bushland and lots of gullys, which can make access difficult. Some roads are restricted to one lane, bordered by trees.
Jenni Laschett was able to beat the roadblocks to rush home and collect her two dogs and cat before the fire got too close. She was forced to leave her ponies and chickens.
Ms Laschett said the Buninyong vet incredibly was taking in pets from across the community to care for at her home that night.
But Ms Laschett said a lack of information for those who left their homes was frustrating. She was unsure whether to make plans with her daughter Paige, age 14, or to stick around or stay with friends.
Buninyong Recreation Reserve was marked an emergency relief centre, staffed by Department of Health and Human Services, Red Cross and the City of Ballarat. About 10 people presented to seek support.
Ms Laschett said most neighbours met up in the Foodworks car park as they enacted their fire plans.
Anne Bonighton, general manager at Galwiji Homestead, which is less than two kilometres away from the fire, said she saw thick, black smoke billowing in the air.
She evacuated at 3pm as fire moved precariously close to the holiday rental homestead.
“It’s a little bit stressful, and I’m very concerned for other residents in the area, especially the ones who lost properties in the fires in 2015,” she said.
Another bushfire raged in the area about three years ago and the homestead came dangerously close to being burned to the ground, she said.
Robert Taylor said he was bracing to evacuate if, or when, the wind changed direction.
The Mount Buninyong Winery and Restaurant owner was assisting fire crews to put out spot fires which were threatening nearby properties.
“The last fire was horrific,” Mr Taylor said. “We nearly lost a lot.”
Scotsburn resident, Eric, who lives in Scotts Lane near where the fire is burning said he was preparing to evacuate his home.
"We've been told it's not safe to stay here anymore," he said.
"I've seen this all before. We've had a few fires here in recent years.
“The first thing I noticed was the birds all flying away and I looked outside and saw the smoke. We've all got fire safety plans here, we have to. It's what you've got to do when you live in the bush. You just grab what you can and hope to goodness nothing happens."
Roads on the inbound side of the Midland Highway from Pryors Road remained closed overnight.
Emergency crews remains working overnight in the area to ensure control lines were contained and reinforced ahead of what is expected to be another hot and windy day on Friday. Ballarat is set for an expected top of 36C.
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