photo of firefighter at bushfire
Residents in rural Victoria have been told it's too late to leave their homes as bushfires rage. Image by HANDOUT/
  • disaster and accident

Residents told it’s too late to leave as bushfires rage

February 13, 2024

People near two bushfires raging out of control in catastrophic conditions in Victoria’s west need to seek shelter as it is too late to leave.

The emergency warning for the fire at Mt Stapylton in the Grampians National Park was updated to 4.45pm telling people to stay in place.

It follows a similar warning issued at 3.15pm for a fire burning at nearby Bellfield.

“The best advice for residents in those areas is to take shelter in your home and to prepare yourself for ember and any potential fire impact” Country Fire Authority chief officer Jason Heffernan told reporters on Tuesday.

“If you are in the open or in a position where you cannot seek shelter you are to immediately to try and make your way to a fire place of last resort.”

The Mt Stapylton fire is set to head towards Dadswells Bridge and Ledcourt but conditions are “dangerous and unpredictable”, the emergency website stated.

The Bellfield blaze is travelling in a southerly direction towards Pomonal.

The fires are believed to have been sparked by dry lightning with firefighters battling multiple other fires across the state.

“Those extraordinary temperatures and particularly those extraordinary winds … across the state really has been the perfect recipe for a bad fire day,” Mr Heffernan said.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Kevin Parkyn attributed the out of control nature of the fires to the strong winds blowing across the region.

“The wind change acts as another mechanism to fan that fire activity and we’re seeing winds averaging around 50km/h and on the wind change gusting between 60 to 80km/h,” the meteorologist said.

The situation is expected to continue to increase throughout the afternoon thanks to strong gusts which temporarily grounded some firefighting aircraft but all are back operating.

“We’re still in the peak period, the significant winds, these wind changes and the heat is still there so there is still the potential for more fires,” Emergency Management Commissioner Rick Nugent said.

The fire situation remains dynamic and is expected to continue burning into Wednesday, Mr Parkyn said.

“Once that wind change moves through and across the fire grounds, we’ll see gradual moderation, but it probably won’t be until well after sunset in the Grampians,” he said.

“We’re still expecting strong winds there right up until midnight, and then gradual moderation through to sunrise tomorrow morning.”