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Devastating ‘mega blaze’ continues to rip through Victoria’s east

A vineyard owner tearfully begged firefighters to save the last remaining house on his property after he watched his winery explode on live television.  

Andrew Clarke, the owner of Jinks Creek Winery in Tonimbuk in Victoria’s south-east, broke down in tears as he described how his business and home were wiped out. 

He begged firefighters to save the last remaining building, accommodation for weddings held on the site, so he would at least have somewhere to live. 

‘I’d like to ask if we could please get someone to go up to our last remaining house and try to do something,’ Mr Clarke said through tears.

‘Get some crews up there or something so we’ve got somewhere to live. We’ve lost everything.’ 

Mr Clarke’s desperate plea for help comes after more than 2,000 firefighters from around the state worked through the night to battle 30 blazes.   

 

Dozens of bushfires across Victoria show no sign of stopping as thousands flee their homes with no idea if they will still be standing when they return 

Thick smoke filled the air across Victoria and the fire turned the sky orange

Thick smoke filled the air across Victoria and the fire turned the sky orange

Dozens of bushfires across Victoria show no sign of stopping as thousands flee their homes with no idea if they will still be standing when they return. 

Cooler weather is expected on Monday, but firefighters may have to contend with dry lightning – without any helpful rain – which could start more fires. 

Mr Clarke blamed the government for the wild fires, claiming they had not carried out essential back burning.     

‘We’ve been left in the hands of these incompetent people, that’s why we’ve lost everything.’

‘This fire would never have been as ferocious if the government had stuck to the rules of the Royal Commission [into Black Saturday] and done all the burning off that they should’ve done,’ he said on Sunrise.

‘They don’t do any burning off. I’ve been on their backs since the the early 2000s to burn off out the back of my place… they keep saying they’re going to do it.’

The owner of Jinks Creek Winery on Tonimbuk Road, Andrew Clarke, said he found out his property (pictured) was lost while watching the news in a nearby cafe

The owner of Jinks Creek Winery on Tonimbuk Road, Andrew Clarke, said he found out his property (pictured) was lost while watching the news in a nearby cafe

Mr Clarke drove through police lines to get back into his property to save his dogs despite an officer threatening him with an infriengement notice.

‘I told him “you can go to hell, I’m going to get my dogs”. He banged on the roof of my car and called me a bastard, so I just dropped the clutch and drove off,’ he said.

He earlier told the Herald Sun he found out his property was lost while watching the news in a nearby cafe.

‘We’ve lost our livelihood, we’ve lost horses, we’ve lost our whole vineyard, we’ve lost our whole cellar door,’ he said.

‘Everything we’ve worked for our entire life, it’s all gone in a couple of hours. It’s surreal. I’m too scared to go back to look at it.’ 

Harrowing footage from a Country Fire Association firefighter showed bushland burning around their truck at night as it drove through.

Harrowing footage from a Country Fire Association firefighter showed bushland burning around their truck at night as it drove through.

Harrowing footage from a Country Fire Association firefighter showed bushland burning around their truck at night as it drove through.

Eight towns had active bushfire emergency warnings on Monday morning with dozens more on high alert should the fires veer towards them.

Budgeree, Budgeree East, Jeeralang, Jeeralang Junction, Jeeralang North, Jumbuk, Yinnar, Yinnar South all have active warnings.

Residents in these areas still had time to leave or prepare to fight to defend their properties, unlike many on Sunday night who were too surrounded to flee.

‘You are in danger and need to act immediately to survive. The safest option is to take shelter indoors immediately,’ those warnings said.

‘It is too late to leave. Leaving now would be deadly.’

More than 2,000 firefighters from around the state are battling 30 blazes that have destroyed five homes at the two worst-affected areas

More than 2,000 firefighters from around the state are battling 30 blazes that have destroyed five homes at the two worst-affected areas

Eight towns had active bushfire emergency warnings (in red) on Monday morning with dozens more on high alert should the fires veer towards them (in orange)

Eight towns had active bushfire emergency warnings (in red) on Monday morning with dozens more on high alert should the fires veer towards them (in orange)

Satellite image shows the amount of smoke pushed into the air by the 30 bushfires raging in eastern Victoria
In this image from Sunday, the smoke was far smaller and not covering half the state

Satellite images from Sunday and Monday showed how much smoke the fires pushed into the air

The biggest fire is the Bunyip State Park blaze, burning 65km east of Melbourne, which was sparked by lightning strikes on Friday and destroyed more than 10,000 hectares.

The blaze is still racing towards the Princes Freeway and emergency warnings remain in place for the surrounding area. 

Country Fire Authority Assistant Chief Officer Trevor Owen said the fire is more dangerous than 2009’s Black Saturday bushfires, which killed 173 people and also started from a lightning strike. 

‘It’s not a matter of if or may for further property damages that we might see today, it’s a matter of we will,’ he said. 

‘Under those very strong conditions experienced on that day (in 2009), it travelled neatly, whilst it damaged some property it was a very narrow finger compared to what we’re facing with this fire, because this fire has been growing.’ 

Evacuation centres were set up for fleeing locals and soon became packed with evacuees carrying whatever belongings they could gather in time.

Some referred to the disastrous fire as ‘a dragon in the forest that breathes fire’. 

Cooler weather is expected on Monday, but firefighters may have to contend with dry lightning - without any helpful rain - which could start more fires 

Cooler weather is expected on Monday, but firefighters may have to contend with dry lightning – without any helpful rain – which could start more fires 

Eight towns had active bushfire emergency warnings on Monday morning with dozens more on high alert should the fires veer towards them 

Eight towns had active bushfire emergency warnings on Monday morning with dozens more on high alert should the fires veer towards them 

There was a chance of showers that would help firefighters, but it was hard to pinpoint where they would hit, and there would only be a few millimetres of rainfall, the weather bureau said.

‘It will be cooler and more humid on Monday which will help with the firefighting efforts,’ senior forecaster Christie Johnson said.

However, Sunday night’s wind change is raising worries the blaze would change direction.

‘We are certainly concerned with the change that’s going to come through… we know that will mean the eastern flank of the fire will become the head of the fire,’ Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said on Sunday.  

An emergency warning was issued for Yinnar South with the blaze growing to more than 1,500 hectares and significant spot fires.

A watch and act remains in place for communities near Dargo and Licola in Gippsland on Sunday night.

‘Although the wind has eased, reducing fire activity, there is still potential for spotting, and you should remain vigilant,’ authorities said of the Dargo blaze. 

The hot and windy conditions are expected to linger until Wednesday when rain is expected to help firefighters. 

CFA fire crew are seen along the Princes Highway outside of Bunyip in Victoria

CFA fire crew are seen along the Princes Highway outside of Bunyip in Victoria

The biggest fire is the Bunyip State Park blaze, burning 65km east of Melbourne, which was sparked by lightning strikes on Friday and destroyed more than 10,000 hectares 

The biggest fire is the Bunyip State Park blaze, burning 65km east of Melbourne, which was sparked by lightning strikes on Friday and destroyed more than 10,000 hectares 

Ruth McGowan and her husband Paul decided to stay and defend their home between Labertouche and Jindivick.

She was mayor of Baw Baw Shire during Black Saturday and felt a sense of history repeating itself.

‘It’s like facing a dragon – a dragon in the forest that breathes fire,’ she said.

‘You’ve got to be prepared and if you’re not, you’ve got to go. A lot of people have, and that’s a good thing. 

‘People have learnt from Black Saturday. I’m watching plumes of smoke come up. It’s quite eerie.’

Tina Forte, from Tonimbuk, about 70 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, is fearful her home, which has belonged to her family since the 1800s, has burned to the ground. 

‘I’m just really worried about the animals because we just had to run yesterday,’ she told reporters on Sunday.

Tina Forte, from Tonimbuk, about 70 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, is fearful her home has burned to the ground

Tina Forte, from Tonimbuk, about 70 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, is fearful her home has burned to the ground

Fire crews are seen in discussion along the Princes Highway as the fire continues to burn

Fire crews are seen in discussion along the Princes Highway as the fire continues to burn

Country Fire Authority assistant chief officer Trevor Owen said the blaze is more dangerous than 2009's Black Saturday fire which also started from a lightning strike

Country Fire Authority assistant chief officer Trevor Owen said the blaze is more dangerous than 2009’s Black Saturday fire which also started from a lightning strike

‘We don’t sleep, we don’t care about our house we care about our livestock,’ she said.

A former Country Fire Authority volunteer has posted a desperate plea to Facebook about how to help horses amid the blaze. 

If it’s too late to evacuate, the post tells residents to turn off their electric fences and strip the horse. 

‘Strip them down to nothing, no halter, no rugs, no fly mask, Nothing!’ the post shared by Animals Voice Equine and Canine Therapy said.

‘We do not want the metal to burn or anything to get attached or caught.’

‘Purple spray or horse make up or your makeup even! paint your phone number onto the horse.’

The advice also urges horse owners to cut the their tail so it doesn’t touch the ground.   

'It's not a matter of if or may for further property damages that we might see today, it's a matter of we will,' he said

‘It’s not a matter of if or may for further property damages that we might see today, it’s a matter of we will,’ he said

A former Country Fire Authority volunteer and farm girl has posted a desperate plea to Facebook about how to help horses amid the blaze

A former Country Fire Authority volunteer and farm girl has posted a desperate plea to Facebook about how to help horses amid the blaze

Some residents have made the difficult decision to stay behind as the fire closes in 

Some residents have made the difficult decision to stay behind as the fire closes in 

‘Open all gates but first! Move them to a paddock with the shortest amount of grass,’ the post continues.

‘Horses are not dumb, don’t keep them trapped, allow them to run from fire.’ 

The advice has been shared almost 4,000 times and some said they followed similar instructions during the 2009 Black Saturday fires.

Kiery-Anne Clissold, from Longwarry North, said it was the right decision to leave.   

‘You could see flames hundreds of feet high across the whole ridge and it’d just woosh up and the flames were reaching for the sky,’ she said of the Bunyip blaze.

Other residents have made the difficult decision to stay behind as the fire closes in. 

Steven Clarke, from Garfield, about 70 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, watched the fire from his property and has decided to stay the night despite an increase in wind.

He said the sun was blocked by smoke all day on Saturday.  

Frank Gibbons, the owner of Robin Hood Inn, in Drouin West, said he was fully booked out as people flocked for accommodation after fleeing fires. 

‘Last night we had pretty much all the rooms booked … I reckon they might be sleeping on the bloody pool tables tonight,’ he said on Sunday.

Mr Gibbons, who survived the Black Saturday bushfires, said: ‘I never thought I’d have to do this again,’ as he hosed down the pub.  

About 25 fires continue to burn as of Sunday morning, with 400 firefighters battling the blazes

About 25 fires continue to burn as of Sunday morning, with 400 firefighters battling the blazes

At least five homes have been destroyed (pictured) as a result of the fires this weekend

At least five homes have been destroyed (pictured) as a result of the fires this weekend

Premier Daniel Andrews urged residents to follow warnings from authorities at a press conference alongside Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp.

‘Don’t put yourself in harm’s way and potentially add to the already considerable workload our firefighters have,’ he said.     

There are about 19 fires still burning across the entire state of Victoria and about 4,663 hectares of bushland has been burnt.

The hot and windy conditions are expected to linger until Wednesday.

A total fire ban has been put in place for Victoria as the temperatures begin to soar again 

A total fire ban has been put in place for Victoria as the temperatures begin to soar again 

Hundreds of firefighters came together to put out blazes across the state as evacuation orders were rolled out for more than 20 suburbs 

Hundreds of firefighters came together to put out blazes across the state as evacuation orders were rolled out for more than 20 suburbs 

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