The father and son of a firefighter who died from bowel cancer on Sunday returned to battle raging bushfires on Monday in honour of him.
Ray Wright has fought fires across Victoria for 33 years, with both his son and grandson followed in his footsteps.
On Sunday, the veteran firefighter’s son Michael Wright died from bowel cancer, aged just 41.
Despite their devastating loss, Ray and his grandson Lauchie were back on the frontline on Monday, joining more than 2,000 firefighters who are continuing to battle out-of-control wildfires that obliterated the entire town of Tonimbuk, 70km southeast of Melbourne.
Ray Wright (right) has been battling blazes across Victoria for 33 years, and both his son Michael (left) and grandson Lauchie (middle) followed in his footsteps
Despite their devastating loss, his father Ray and son Lauchie (pictured together) were back on the frontline on Monday in memory of Michael
More than 2,000 firefighters continue to battle the out-of-control wildfire that’s obliterated the entire town of Tonimbuk, 70km southeast of Melbourne
‘Lost my son yesterday, but he’d want us to come out here. He’ll be with us and it’s what he would’ve done,’ the grieving father told Ten Daily.
Lauchie said his dad had been fighting bowel cancer for the past few years, with his health declining rapidly in the last week.
‘I’ve always wanted to be like him and today he would’ve wanted me to be out here alongside Pa and hopefully do him proud,’ he said of his father.
‘He was always about helping others, so I just want to be like him as well. I thought “why not do this?”‘
Late Monday night, Vic Emergency released a Watch and Act warning for Basan Corner, Bunyip, Bunyip North, Cornucopia, Drouin West, Garfield, Garfield North, Gentle Annie, Jindivick, Labertouche, Longwarry, Longwarry North, Maryknoll, Nar Nar Goon North, Tonimbuk, Tynong North, Gembrook, Beenak and Whites Corner.
The warning said the bushfire at Bunyip State Park is not yet under control but firefighters are still actively putting out spot fires and patrolling the blaze.
The Gembrook State Park Whites Corner fire, which is separate from the Bunyip Fire, is still within containment lines as crews continued to patrol it on Monday.
Tonimbuk, which recorded a population of just 208 in the 2016 Census, is located within the Shire of Cardinia local government area and is believed to have been completely destroyed.
More than 20 bushfires across Victoria show no sign of stopping as thousands have had to flee their homes with no idea if they will be standing when they return.
Nine buildings have been destroyed so far, seven in the Bunyip State Park Forest bushfire and two in Yinnar South.
Talking to the 7.30 Report, Victorian Fire Authority’s Gavin Freeman said fires are taking up a large part of rural Victoria.
Rex Newton, 70, was pictured examining the remains of his home and wildlife shelter, which had been destroyed by the bushfires, on Monday
The rural town of Tonimbuk, 70km southeast of Melbourne, was in the direct path of the deadly bushfires and has almost been completely destroyed
Farmer Andrew Clarke (pictured) begged for firefighters to save the last remaining house on his property and his beloved dogs, but an unsympathetic police officer threatened to book him if he chose to enter the building
The owner of Jinks Creek Winery on Tonimbuk Road, Mr Clarke, said he found out his property (pictured) was lost while watching the news in a nearby cafe
‘If you draw a line using the Hume Highway as a line that runs the length of Victoria, in most places to the east of that highway we’ve got fire. It’s been quite a difficult day for our people,’ Mr Freeman said.
On Monday, north-westerly winds were encouraging the fires to intensify. The blazes are expected to continue on Tuesday.
Mr Freeman said the 23 fires will continue to grow in size.
‘We expect that the resourcing will need to be maintained at that level and we expect the fires to continue to grow. Until we get a bit of a cooler change coming through late Tuesday night, or Wednesday morning,’ he said.
A fire in Yinnar South was shared to social media as emergency crews continued to battle the blaze
Late Monday afternoon, the state experienced some lightning, which Mr Freeman said is expected to spark a number of new fires, especially in the Gippsland area.
Mr Freeman is urging residents to work with firefighters, listen to warnings and try and stay as informed as possible and aware of their surroundings.
‘We implore the Victorian government to work with us, keep your wits about you, keep informed and make sure you got your bushfire survival plan ready to be enacted,’ he said.
Tonimbuk local and owner of Jinks Creek Winery Andrew Clarke was desperate to save his beloved dogs from his burning property when an unsympathetic police officer threatened to book him if he entered the building.
‘A copper tried to stop me going back, he told me he was going to give me an infringement if I went past him,’ Mr Clarke told 3AW.
‘I dropped the clutch and went past, I said there’s no way I’m leaving my dogs at that place,’ he said.
However, the officer later called Mr Clarke to threaten him with an infringement again for saving his family’s beloved dogs.
‘He must have taken my rego because he rang me two hours later and said I’m contemplating sending you a ticket. I was just shocked he even had the time to look up my bloody phone number,’ he added.
It’s believed the township of Tonimbuk has been all but wiped off the map in the Bunyip State Park fires (Map shows location of Tonimbuk)
Mr Clarke’s property (pictured, razed to the ground) was one confirmed to have been destroyed by the bushfires devastating Victoria’s east
Mr Newton, 70, (pictured right) was comforted by another resident as they both examined the remains of his home in Tonimbuk after a fire tore through the town
Mr Clarke had previously been captured on camera begging firefighters to save the last remaining building on his site, so he would at least have somewhere to live.
The winemaker is just one of many local residents to suffer the devastating effects of the bushfires.
Rex Newton, 70, was pictured examining the remains of his home and wildlife shelter, which had been destroyed by the bushfires, on Monday.
Another local, Mark Knight, claimed the area had ‘just been wiped clean’.
‘It’s believed the township of Tonimbuk has been all but wiped off the map in the Bunyip State Park fires.
‘The Jinks Creek Winery is destroyed, and my friend’s house and many others, have gone up in flames,’ an update from Network 10 read.
The Country Fire Authority cleared Tonimbuk Road of deadly trees after the area was destroyed by the bushfire and issued a statement confirming that preparations were being made to protect assets in the area and critical infrastructures
There are four areas worst affected by 20 fires raging across Victoria on Monday. People in the areas of Howqua, Howqua Hills, Jamieson and Mount Buller were also issued with a safety warning
The Cardinia council issued an update on the status of bushfires on Monday.
‘Crews are continuing to battle an out of control fire in the Bunyip State Park, strong northerly winds are causing dynamic and challenging fire activity.
‘The fire has continued to spread and expand throughout yesterday. Spot fires that were threatening to cross the Freeway were quickly contained,’ it read.
The statement confirmed that preparations were being made to protect assets and critical infrastructures in the area.
It also added that the fire had reached 11,524 hectares in size, and has impacted on private land in the Maryknoll, Cornucopia, Nar Nar Goon, Tonimbuk, Tynong North, Garfield North and Labertouche communities.
The image shows the deadly blaze sweep over Licola, 254km east of Melborune, in the state Victoria. Dozens more areas are on ‘watch and act’ high alert as the unpredictable fires could change direction or speed
Harrowing footage of a CFA volunteer driving their fire truck through burning bushland
In a statement issued to Daily Mail Australia, Victoria Police said it was urging anyone travelling in the areas near to the bushfires to take extra care.
‘With major fires at Bunyip, Licola, Dargo and Yinnar South, Victoria Police is encouraging everyone to avoid travelling to the area unless it is absolutely necessary,’ it read.
‘If in the area, we are urging all motorists to take care when on the roads and obey directions issued by police and other agencies.
‘Smoke is going to be visible in nearby towns and roads, so put your headlights on and take extra caution when driving,’ it said.
Satellite images from Sunday (left) and Monday (right) showed how much smoke the fires pushed into the air from the wild fires. On Saturday night, Country Fire Authority Assistant Chief Officer Trevor Owen said the fire at Bunyip was more dangerous than 2009’s Black Saturday bushfires, which killed 173 people and also started from a lightning strike
A total fire ban has been put in place for Victoria as the temperatures begin to soar again with some residents seeing the large smoke clouds from the front doors of their homes
Country Fire Authority Assistant Chief Officer Trevor Owen said the fire at Bunyip was 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.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed his condolences to those whose properties were destroyed in the fires, admitting ‘the news will be bad for some’.
‘Those who have been experiencing the terrible bushfires in Victoria, our thoughts are with you,’ he said.
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
Fire crews are seen in discussion along the Princes Highway as the fire continues to burn as a former Country Fire Authority volunteer posted a desperate plea to Facebook about how to help horses amid the blaz