Fire risk extreme as temperatures soar

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The scorching temperatures in southern states are making life interesting for grey nomads … and just about everybody else!

Emergency services have been extremely busy fighting a large number of grass fires in both Victoria and South Australia. Much of Victoria remains under total fire bans, with temperatures soaring to 40 degrees plus. A severe fire warning has also been issued for South Australia’s north west pastoral, north east pastoral, Flinders and Riverland districts.

Fire authorities are even warning people driving between Adelaide and Melbourne to delay their travel if possible because of the extreme fire danger.

Victorian Country Fire Authority deputy chief officer Steve Warrington told the Australian newspaper that this summer’s main danger came from grass fires which could travel quickly and trap people in their cars. He compared conditions to those during the 1969 Lara grass fire, which killed 17 people near Geelong, many as they tried to escape on the Princes Highway.

“If you’re driving from Adelaide to Melbourne, we’d be concerned for those people,” he said. “I would prefer people weren’t on those roads on a day like today, but I understand that’s not practical.”

Mr Warrington said it had been at least 10 years since an abundance of long, dry grass created such fire conditions.

Victorian Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley warned people who are camping to ensure they met fire ban conditions.

“There are lots of examples where fires have actually started from an old campfire,” he said.

Another reminder of just how dangerous human carelessness can be in such volatile conditions came in the South Australian town of Robe where a marine flare sparked a scrub fire near the town during New Year’s celebrations.

Kiri Marshall, who was staying at the SeaVu Caravan Park in Robe, said the CFS fought valiantly in the hot weather to stop the fire reaching the town.

“It got quite big and there was a lot of ash coming over the place (caravan park),” she said. “It was threatening to come to the town. They (the CFS) are worth their weight in gold.”

Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster David House said a cool change would bring some relief for South Australia, but any relief would be short-lived. He said the long-range forecast showed a high likelihood of continued above-average temperatures through January.

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