At least five homes have been razed to the ground by bushfires in regional Victoria, with firefighters warning residents the worst is yet to come.
Lightning sparked the fires in Bunyip State Park, about 65km east of Melbourne, on Friday night.
Authorities initially thought the fires could be maintained, but then four separate blazes merged into one, burning out of control and resulting in evacuation orders for more than 20 suburbs.
The impending threat of higher temperatures and the hottest start to autumn in three decades could undo the work of more than 400 firefighters who continue to battle 25 fires across the state.
A house exploding in a massive ball of fire in the Bunyip State Forest during raging bushfires
Properties have been destroyed by out-of-control bushfires in regional Victoria. Pictured is land razed by the fires
About 25 fires continue to burn as of Sunday morning, with 400 firefighters battling the blazes
Overnight water bombing efforts were undone by soaring temperatures and high winds
A helicopter will fly over the Bunyip State Park on Sunday to assess exactly which properties have been destroyed.
About 4663 hectares of bushland has been burnt and the fire continues to spread eastwards.
There is no respite in sight, with temperatures in the state’s east expected to soar on Sunday afternoon.
The heat has resulted in a severe fire danger rating for the state’s central district and a ‘very high’ rating for the rest of the Victoria.
At least five homes have been destroyed (pictured) as a result of the fires this weekend
Residents in parts of Victoria have been urged to evacuate their homes as four out-of-control bushfires merged into one
Four fires have merged at Bunyip State Park near Tonimbik about 65km east of Melbourne
The Bureau of Meteorology’s senior forecaster Tom Delamotte said the conditions could get the best of those fighting the fires.
‘This means that if we have fires in the landscape, they could challenge firefighters,’ he said.
‘This is the hottest start to autumn in 30 years, following the hottest summer on record.’
Overnight water bombing did little to quell the blazes, with about 25 continuing to burn Sunday morning.
Earlier, locals were told to seek shelter indoors because it was ‘too late to leave’ in some regions, including Gembrook and Bunyip, as a fast moving fire approached the Princes Highway.
Residents in Boolarra, Budgeree, Churchill, Grand Ridge, Hazelwood, Jeeralang, Jumbuk and Yinnar were told their communities could be hit by the fires at any point.
Many sought shelter in relief centres located around the state in Morwell and Pakenham, arriving with no more than the clothes on their backs.
Other locals were told to seek shelter indoors because it was ‘too late to leave’ some regions, including Gembrook and Bunyip as a fast moving fire approached the Princes Highway
Early morning winds on Sunday were expected to work against firefighters
Early morning winds on Sunday were expected to work against firefighters, making the fire erratic as it burns further east.
‘Winds may strengthen early in the morning from the north west which will affect the movement of the fire,’ a statement from VicEmergency read.
‘Crews are focused on asset protection and will be on the fireline all night to support local communities.’
Residents were reminded that ‘leaving now is the safest option, before conditions become too dangerous.’
‘Emergency Services may not be able to help you if you decide to stay.’
For people who are already caught in the blaze, or choosing to remain at home, the emergency health service said they should take shelter before the fire actually arrives.
Residents were reminded that ‘leaving now is the safest option, before conditions become too dangerous’
A total fire ban has been put in place for Victoria as the temperatures begin to soar again
They warned the extreme heat is likely to be deadly, and could kill somebody well before the flames even reach.
‘Shelter in a room that has two exits including one directly to the outside. It is important to be able to see outside so you know what is happening with the fire,’ they said.
‘If your home catches on fire and the conditions inside become unbearable, you need to get out and go to an area that has already been burnt.’
A total fire ban is in place.
Hundreds of firefighters came together to put out blazes across the state as evacuation orders were rolled out for more than 20 suburbs