The past 24 hours have been wild in Lexton.
Residents were evacuated about 11pm last night as emergency crews feared a wind change would drive a rampaging fire straight towards the town.
Luckily, fire breaks and suppression efforts were able to slow the fire as the wind swung around.
FROM FRIDAY NIGHT: Fires threaten properties across the western district
While several sheds and fences have been destroyed, no homes have been affected, and no one has been injured.
Several warnings are still in place, and residents should keep an eye on emergency broadcasts, and the VicEmergency app and social media for more information.
Since Friday, 142 fires have started across Victoria, 55 since midnight.— VicEmergency (@vicemergency) December 21, 2019
A number of people were evacuated from Lexton last night after the community was threatened by the fire, while others took shelter at local relief centres.
Below: Mount Mercer & Lexton #vicfirespic.twitter.com/2tOcdX557h
Incident controller, FFMV deputy chief fire officer Jon Rofe, said firefighters faced extreme conditions on Friday evening as the fire burned through parts of the Ben Major State Forest.
"The real concern we had for Lexton was the south-westerly wind change that would have pushed the fire towards Lexton," he explained.
"If that happened, it would have been quite a significant risk for the township and its residents - as it turned out, the fire overnight didn't actually reach Lexton itself, but certainly as a precaution to protect the safety of Lexton residents, that evacuation was carried out."
The wind was a high north-westerly for most of the day, pushing over steep and rocky hills, though a south-westerly change was forecast for about 9pm - this came through on time, with strong gusts towards the town.
This led to "dramatically increased fire behaviour," deputy chief fire officer Rofe said.
"We were able to suppress the southern end of the fire that would have to Lexton," he said - the focus was on the eastern side of the fire, with aerial waterbombers deployed to slow the spread.
"We did get a slight lull in the winds before the change, which enabled our firefighters to be quite aggressive," he said.
"Early this morning, the air became quite moist so the humidity went up quite high which also helped in suppressing the run of the fire.
"There is still a lot of active fire edge out there today, and our on-ground crews are working hard with bulldozers and heavy machinery, backed up by our ground firefighting crews to bring the fire into containment."
The VicEmergency site still has an Advice warning for Lexton and surrounds, and a Watch and Act warning for Mount Lonarch around the Ben Major State Forest.
Several roads remain closed west of Lexton, including the Ararat-Lexton Road, which was crossed by fire last night.
The Beaufort-Lexton Road has reopened, with a 40kmh speed limit through the burnt out area.
Drivers are warned to be careful of emergency appliances still operating in the area.
At least 2900 hectares have been burned so far, and more than 150 firefighters have been involved.
On Saturday morning, strike teams from as far away as Kyneton were assembling in front of the post office - one volunteer said he got the call-up at 7am and was ready for action.
While there wasn't much smoke in the township - and Friday's 40 degree heat was noticeably absent - the wind remained strong and many residents remained nervous.
Bev Clover evacuated to Burrumbeet on Friday night after securing her horses.
She said she was lucky to find floats and stabling for them all, but was glad no one was hurt.
In the post office, Noreen Morris helped firefighters stack soft drinks as more volunteers arrived - it'll all be paid for by the Lexton community club's fund, according to the club's president Ingrid Johnson.
The club offers catering at community events to raise money to help initiatives around the town, and sometimes that includes looking after thirsty firefighters.
Ms Johnson stayed to defend her home with her husband, and said she felt very calm.
"I'm just relieved, actually, we got over the night, and people are safe and happy now," she said.
"We saw a fire truck go past, and I looked at the emergency app, that's when we saw it.
"My husband and I stayed here at home, because we've got animals, dogs and sheep, and we just watered everything down and kept an eye on everything."
She mentioned a major concern for many residents, including some volunteer firefighters, was the near complete lack of mobile phone coverage.
At the community meeting the following day, held in Miners Rest just in case the fire did cut off Lexton, officials mentioned of the initial first responders to the incident had lost hundreds of head of livestock, as well as crops and pasture.
The full count of sheds, fences, and stock lost will not be known for a while.
The fire did impact on the Rainbow Serpent Festival site, which is preparing for its 2020 event at the end of January.
According to a statement seen on social media, essential infrastructure has not been affected, but assessments are ongoing.
Organisers have been contacted for comment.
Deputy chief fire officer Rofe said reignition remained a concern, however the forecast for the rest of the week indicates temperatures will not return to the mid-30s until next Saturday.
"Even though there's been some significant losses to some landholders, I think the outcome could have been a lot worse," he said.
"We've got an investigation team on ground today, both fire agencies and VicPol, they're investigating the cause of the fire.
"We just know it started to the north of the Ben Major State Forest, and burnt through the forest into private property."
CFA District 16 operations manager Bernie Fradd was blunt at the community meeting.
"We're not out of the woods, there's a number of days left on this fire," he warned.
"Yesterday was as bad as any of the other big fires in Australia."
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