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Homes already lost as firefighters rally to front lines of Victorian blaze

Homes have been reported lost as reinforcements start arriving to bolster firefighters battling a large bushfire in western Victoria.

Feb 23, 2024, updated Feb 23, 2024
A supplied image shows smoke from a bushfire near the town of Bayindeen in Ararat, Victoria, Thursday, February 22, 2024. More than 1000 firefighters are working to contain a large bushfire raging in Western Victoria as hot conditions set in across NSW. (AAP Image/Supplied by VicEmergency) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

A supplied image shows smoke from a bushfire near the town of Bayindeen in Ararat, Victoria, Thursday, February 22, 2024. More than 1000 firefighters are working to contain a large bushfire raging in Western Victoria as hot conditions set in across NSW. (AAP Image/Supplied by VicEmergency) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Thousands of residents from almost 30 communities near Ballarat have been told to “leave now,” with emergency warnings and watch-and-act alerts issued.

About 1000 firefighters have been battling the blaze including those operating 15 water bombing aircraft.

Victorian Country Fire Authority chief officer Jason Heffernan said it was hoped fire conditions would abate overnight but they hadn’t, with the fire progressing north towards Elmhurst.

“We are getting early reports unfortunately of some home losses, as well as multiple sheds,” he told ABC TV early on Friday, with livestock losses also expected.

Elmhurst residents had been told to evacuate and firefighters were taking position to protect the township, with brisk winds from the south expected to fan the fire, Mr Heffernan said.

“I expect fire conditions will remain reasonably volatile today,” he said.

More firefighters are expected to arrive to battle the blaze on Friday and on the weekend.

“We are throwing everything we can at it to try and contain the fire in the lead-up to next Wednesday’s predicted high fire weather day,” Mr Heffernan said.

The very large bushfire forced the closure of the Great Western Highway between the major towns of Ballarat and Ararat, in addition to a train line and bus routes in the area.

The aim on Friday was to get the Great Western Highway opened but the Pyrenees highway was set to be closed due to the fire, Mr Heffernan said.

Prisoners with health conditions that make them vulnerable to smoke have been taken away from Langi Kal Kal Prison, which is near the fire.

Firefighters have also been battling bushfires in parts of Tasmania, with a watch and act warning issued for the Dee community and surrounds over a fire in the remote central highlands, with residents told to prepare to leave.

A high fire danger alert has been issued for parts of central and south western NSW, in addition to the Greater Hunter region.

Hot conditions on Friday are likely to be focused on Northern and Eastern NSW, according to Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Dean Narramore.

He said the mercury was set to reach mid to high 30s in Sydney before widespread thunderstorm activity and a cool change in the evening.

A heatwave warning is current for Western Australia’s Pilbara, North Interior and South Interior Districts and Gascoyne regions.

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