A catastrophic fire danger rating has been put in place for a large part of Victoria for the first time since the state’s devastating Black Summer bushfires in 2019.
The highest level bushfire danger rating has been put in place for the Wimmera district, in the state’s west, with temperatures set to reach near 40C.
Emergency management commissioner Rick Nugent said winds gusts of up to 80km/h, thunderstorms and lightning will contribute to fire conditions across the state.
“This increased fire risk has resulted in a catastrophic fire danger rating for the Wimmera, an extreme fire danger rating for the Mallee and a high fire danger rating for the rest of the state, except for east Gippsland,” Mr Nugent told media on Monday.
“This is the first time since November 2019 that we’ve had a catastrophic fire danger rating in this state.
“We are doing everything possible to ensure we are well prepared to respond to any fires that may occur anywhere in the state.
“This includes strategically placing aircraft in the high risk areas, being ready to respond.”
Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Kelvin Parkyn said a number of weather conditions will contribute to a “bad fire weather day”.
He said the conditions are the “worst” he had seen since the 2019-2020 summer.
“We’re expecting thunderstorms to develop during the afternoon and some of those storms could be severe, producing damaging wind gusts as they track very swiftly across the state from the north west to the south east,” he said.
“The second component of a bad fire weather day is the wind change. The wind change that we’re expecting tomorrow is probably the strongest I have seen, potentially I have seen for some years, as it sweeps across the south west in the late morning.”
Mr Parkyn said the hot and dry conditions, as well as thunderstorms and dry lightning could start fires, while wind sweeps through the state.
A total fire ban has been declared in Wimmera, Mallee, Northern Country, Central, South West and North central regions of the state.
CFA chief officer Jason Heffernan urged people living in any area from Melbourne to the west of the state to be alert and aware of safety warnings as grassfires remain a concern for fire crews.
“Grass fires can be just as deadly as those large bushfires we saw on TV (during the) 2019 to 2020 fire season. They move incredibly fast, they can jump roads with ease,” Mr Heffernan said.
Communities of concern include Rainbow, Warracknabeal, Minyip, Rupanyup and Murtoa, who are directly under the catastrophic fire danger zone.
People living in these districts are urged to put their bushfire survival into action immediately and leave high risk areas early on Tuesday morning.
Chris Hardman from Forest Fire Management Victoria said Victorian’s should avoid parks and forests.
“Do not visit parks and forests and if you’re there, get out tonight (Monday evening),” he said.
”It’s really important that people don’t visit, particularly in those areas in the Wimmera.
“If fires start in those areas, they can quickly become uncontrollable and your life will be in danger.”
Victorian’s are encouraged to monitor the VicEmergency App and emergency media broadcasts.