Eight Emergency Warnings Issued For East Gippsland With Fires “Growing As We Speak”

There are now eight emergency fire warnings for East Gippsland in Victoria, with fire services warning it is “too late to leave”.

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The Princes Highway is now closed between Bruthen and Genoa intersection, with no indication of when it will reopen.

There are emergency warnings in place for Bruthen, Bullumwaal, Clifton Creek, Deptford, Fairhope, Fairy Dell, Granite Rock, Mossiface, Mount Taylor, Sarsfield, Waterholes.

East Gippsland fire incident controller Ben Rankin said it was an “extreme” day, comparable to the Black Saturday bushfires.

“[It’s] comparable almost to Black Saturday in some ways, if the forecast does eventuate as given to us. It is inevitable there will be some significant run of fire today,” he told reporters on Monday morning.

At a 2.40pm media conference, Rankin said the fires “were growing as we speak”, as firefighters faced temperatures of 41 degrees and gusty winds.

“There are a pair of fires which are actually pulling themselves together, which is an interesting phenomenon,” Rankin said.

“There are two [fires] about 12km in height at the moment and already, starting to drop ashes and embers down into the area from Buchan south. Both communities and the surrounding areas will need to be on high watch at the moment with moves to put their plans into action.”

A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for the area, with the Bureau of Meteorology warning of fire-initiated dry thunderstorms.

These are also known as “flammagenitus”, and occur when the plume of hot smoke rises high enough for low atmospheric pressure to cause its air to cool, with moisture in the plume air condensing and forming a cloud.

Source: BOM.

They can be extremely dangerous, as they trigger unpredictable fire behaviour.

“It is a very risky day,” Rankin said.

It will take “weeks or months” for the fires to be put out, the Country Fire Authority said, requiring “substantial rain” to do so; that is not being forecast for the near future.

The CFA warned spot fires may be started by embers.

“There is a bushfire to your west that is not yet under control. Fire activity has now increased and produced a significant smoke column,” it said.

“A severe thunder storm warning has been issued for East Gippsland for damaging and locally destructive winds.

“You are in danger and need to act immediately to survive. The safest option is to take shelter indoors immediately. It is too late to leave.”

People within the area are being urged to follow their fire preparedness plans, keep a close eye on CFA messaging, and follow all CFA instructions.