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Firemen stand down, but warn just one tree could spark fresh blaze

Firefighters are keeping a close eye on a massive blaze in Victoria’s west as investigators look into the cause of another fire.

Mar 01, 2024, updated Mar 01, 2024
A supplied image obtained on Wednesday, February 28, 2024, shows burnt fields at the Bayindeen-Rocky Road fire northwest of Ballarat, Victoria.  (AAP Image/Supplied by Forest Fire Management Victoria)

A supplied image obtained on Wednesday, February 28, 2024, shows burnt fields at the Bayindeen-Rocky Road fire northwest of Ballarat, Victoria. (AAP Image/Supplied by Forest Fire Management Victoria)

The more than 22,000-hectare Bayindeen fire, west of Ballarat, was contained a week after it ignited.

Residents of nearby communities including Amphitheatre, Avoca, Bayindeen, Beaufort, Elmhurst, Raglan and Waterloo can now return, although authorities have warn there could be continued localised fire and smoke.

Country Fire Authority deputy chief Garry Cook said while some firefighters were stood down on Thursday, crews would continue to monitor the Bayindeen blaze for any flare-ups.

“You can have a tree that might smoulder a kilometre in from the edge and it might flare up there,” Mr Cook told AAP on Thursday night.

“Sometimes, you’ll get root systems in old stumps and things like that (that will) smoulder under the ground and then they’ll re-emerge in a couple of weeks.

“That’s why we’ll continue to have patrols and not leave that fire unattended in any way, shape or form.

“To say that 20,000 hectares will be completely extinguished is just not something we could actually achieve.”

Impact assessments for the blaze were completed, with six homes destroyed, Mr Cook said.

Fire crews were assessing trees in the Bayindeen fire zone to determine what ones were hazardous.

More than 100 firefighters from NSW who travelled to Victoria to assist local responders started to return home on Friday, with others due to follow on Saturday.

Investigators were also looking into the cause of another fire at Dereel, about 30km south of Ballarat, which ignited on Wednesday during extreme conditions and threatened more than 100 homes.

It was being treated as suspicious given there was no dry lightning in the area, or machinery operating at the time.

An advice message said that fire posed no threat to residents, with more than 100 firefighters battling the blaze on Thursday night.

The Country Fire Authority was preparing for more dangerous conditions on Wednesday, with early indications suggesting several districts would have very high fire danger ratings, Mr Cook said.

A high pressure system was expected to lead to high temperatures in Victoria on Wednesday before a wind change.

“How hot it is, how strong the winds are and the timing of those things – it’s too early (to say),” Mr Cook said.

“As we know more about that we’ll start our preparations both for the fire services and more broadly the messaging to the community about what we can expect.”

The bureau is predicting below median rainfall for most of Victoria including Melbourne in autumn.

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