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Two houses saved from bushfires by intense overnight firefight

Two bushfires that threatened to destroy homes in western Victoria have been contained after an intense firefight overnight, with authorities now focusing on assessing the damage.

Feb 29, 2024, updated Feb 29, 2024
Country Fire Authority (CFA) fire fighters wait for the fire to reach their defence line along Glenfern Rd, in Upwey, east of Melbourne,. The fire is threatening homes in Melbourne's eastern suburbs and has destroyed one house, two fire trucks, and injured three firefighters. (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

Country Fire Authority (CFA) fire fighters wait for the fire to reach their defence line along Glenfern Rd, in Upwey, east of Melbourne,. The fire is threatening homes in Melbourne's eastern suburbs and has destroyed one house, two fire trucks, and injured three firefighters. (AAP Image/Joe Castro)

A blaze at Dereel near Geelong was whipped up by strong hot winds during Wednesday’s catastrophic fire conditions, prompting a warning for residents to shelter indoors.

Up to 400 firefighters battled the blaze overnight before it was deemed under control by early Thursday morning.

Crews also worked to stop the Bayindeen-Rocky Road blaze west of Ballarat from spreading by building containment lines around its 157km perimeter.

The Dereel blaze came within kilometres of Michelle de Groot’s house.

She said she sought shelter at two evacuation centres, however they also had to be evacuated as the fire grew.

“We were choking on smoke, everyone’s there yelling get out, you have to leave, it’s not safe,” Ms de Groot told ABC radio.

Her husband stayed to defend a local property and said the fire was so loud he could not hear water-bombing aircraft as they passed over the area.

“He said it was so quick, it was really quick and hot and the noise was horrendous, it was pretty hairy,” she added.

Watch and act alerts remain in place for both fires with authorities warning it’s still not safe for anyone to return to Dereel, Amphitheatre, Bayindeen, Ben Nevis, Chute, Elmhurst, Eversley, Glenlogie, Mount Cole, Mount Lonarch and Raglan.

“There’s still work to be done to make sure that there’s no hazards near the area, particularly after these types of fires we need to check the trees haven’t been damaged by fire and are going to fall,” State Control Centre spokesman Luke Hegarty told AAP.

“There’s that work still to be done before we can give those residents an indication it’s safe to return.”

Some 30,000 people in communities near the Bayindeen-Rocky Road blaze were warned earlier in the week that their towns could be at risk and they should consider leaving the area.

Many in the fire danger zones heeded warnings and left by Wednesday morning but some residents stayed to defend their properties.

Residents who do not live in the towns covered by the emergency warning are now able to go home.

Mr Hegarty said emergency services are focused on assessing whether any structures were damaged at Dereel but there are no indications property had been lost in any other areas.

He said hundreds of firefighters will keep working to bring the Bayindeen-Rocky Road, which has burned through 20,000 hectares, under control before conditions are expected to spike again next Wednesday.

Lower temperatures were expected on Thursday following a cool change after Mildura on Wednesday reached the mid-40Cs.

Horsham surpassed 40C and recorded a wind gust of 96km/h after 5pm on Wednesday.

As of Thursday morning, six homes, 84 sheep and two beef cattle were lost to the Bayindeen blaze.

Wildlife Victoria is expecting an influx of injured animals so the organisation has extra people working in phone rooms to make sure all cases are attended to.

Members of the public are urged to phone Wildlife Victoria for help if they spot an injured animal.

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