Daylesford is eerily quiet today as residents recover from the shock of the bushfire, which burned as close as 300-metres from residences.
Daylesford resident Sheree said many people were still shaken up after the weekend’s events.
Her friend Bec came to stay with her after she saw the fires burning near her Hepburn home on Saturday afternoon.
Sheree said the fires reminded her of the 2009 bushfires and gave her quite a scare.
“The heat was just so hot around the time they upped the warning for Daylesford. It was 38 and later in the afternoon when the humidity really kicked in and the wind picked up, I started to get really nervous,” Sheree said. “They were very similar to the 2009 bushfires in their severity.”
Sheree said she didn’t have an exact fire plan, but has two boxes packed in case of an emergency, which contain all of her daughter’s baby things and their important documents.
“I have two boxes in my house so if ever I need to get out of here, those two boxes go in my car and we just drive away.”
She said some people were getting frustrated that the Vic Emergency app was not being updated as much as they would have liked on Sunday night, but that by using multiple means of information, like the CFA website and Hepburn Shire Emergency Management page, people could stay informed.
Sheree applauded the work of the region’s firefighters and said she was appreciative that schools were closed today as it gave people a chance to mentally recover.
“There is an emotional toll and we all just feel drained,” she said. “We can all settle back in this afternoon. The sounds of the helicopters and the planes are still dumping water today.”
Businesses and accommodation services opened their doors to those who had to evacuate, including elderly residents of Hepburn House, while other people opened their homes and paddocks to pets, horses and cattle.
Things seem to be looking up as the Hepburn-Manning Road fire has significantly subsided overnight due to favourable weather following last night’s wind change.
CFA incident controller Jon Rofe updates The Courier on what will be happening today in the region.
“The Hepburn-Manning Road fire started last week after a band of lightning struck, with the blaze taking off on Saturday,” he said.
“The blaze burnt through 28 hectares north of Hepburn. Fire behaviour has subsided dramatically overnight due to good weather following the wind change. Fire dangers today are reduced, allowing firefighters to consolidate control lines.
“Firefighters will be undertaking blacking out and burning out remaining fuel if required. Crews will be working on the remains of the fire for a number of days. There is still a relief centre available at Victoria Park in Daylesford.
“The Back Hepburn Road remains closed, however road closures will be reviewed by 12pm.
“Finally I’d like to acknowledge the great work by the on-ground firefighters and the amazing support the received by aerial bombers in keeping the fire relatively small and minimising its impact to Hepburn and surrounding areas.
“I’d also like to thank those within the community who helped in all facets of the firefighting effort and their support and patience during this time.”
The following schools and kindergartens are closed due to the fire situation:
- Hepburn Primary School
- Daylesford Primary School
- Daylesford Secondary College
- Yandoit Primary School
- Hepburn Springs Kindergarten
- Daylesford Kindergarten
- Daylesford Community Child Care Centre
- Hepburn Primary School Out of School Hours Care
- St Michael's Primary School
The Hepburn fires have been downgraded to advice level overnight as CFA crews prepare for a busy day of mopping up.
A cool change last night did not create the flare ups crews were fearing but the advice is still for communities to continue to monitor the situation.
The Hepburn fire is burning less than 300m from homes as a gusty cool change is predicted to hit the fireground within the hour.
While the progress of the fire has been slowed by ground crews supported by water and retardant bombing aircraft, the fire still poses significant risks particularly to the Hepburn and Hepburn Springs communities, according to CFA incident controller Jon Rofe.
Police and emergency service workers door-knocked about 70 homes, in areas at risk of coming under direct threat of fire, early in the morning urging residents to evacuate.
Mr Rofe said leaving the area now was the safest option, using Main Road towards Daylesford.
“The fire is less than 300 metres from residential houses and heavy smoke is affecting Hepburn today,” he said.
“Please stay away from the warning area to keep roads free emergency services vehicles.”
An emergency warning remains in effect for Hepburn and Hepburn Springs, and a watch and act is in place for Bryces Flat, Daylesford, Dry Diggings, Elevated Plains, Kidds Gully and Shepherds Flat.
A community meeting will be held at the Daylesford Town Hall at 6pm tonight.
A south westerly wind change is expected in the next hour will likely impact the direction of the fire, which has burned about 28 hectares.
Emergency Services commissioner Andrew Crisp said it was vital for members of the community to stay aware of the fire behaviour.
“It’s important for members of the public out there to stay across about what is happening across the state, You need to know how you can access information to make informed decision – whether that’s through the Vic Emergency app, through the Vic Emergency hotline (1800 226 226) and website, and via social media.
“You need a number of different sources to ensure you get information to make good decisions about where you live or travel,” he said.
During a press conference about 4pm, Mr Crisp said the Hepburn fire was “looking somewhat more positive than what is was first thing this morning”.
“But we’re not complacent about this fire. There’s still plenty of heat in the day and we know the wind is likely to pick up and then the change come through that particular area.”
Mr Crisp said the greatest danger now was the wind change.
“Whenever we get a wind change there’s potential danger, whether that’s in relation to community or firefighters themselves,” he said.
“When a fire travels in a south easterly direction, then the change comes invariably it picks up from the south so what was the eastern flank of the fire becomes the head and it’s much wider than what was original head of the fire.
“We map all that and work out strategies and plan accordingly.”
Hepburn, Daylesford and St Michael’s Primary Schools and Daylesford Secondary College will be closed tomorrow as fire crews continue to battle a blaze less than 2km from Hepburn Springs near Mannings Road.
An emergency warning remains in place, with fire activity increasing with the rise in temperature during the afternoon.
The warning, issued just before 4pm, said the fire was not yet under control and ground crews and aircraft were continuing to work on suppression and containment of the fire.
Since early morning, aircraft have been laying down firebreaks of retardant, which could affect residents who rely on tank water.
“If you rely on tank water for your drinking water supply, it is possible that your water tank has been contaminated from debris, ash and aerial bombing activities,” the CFA warned.
“If your property has been impacted by aerial water bombing or fire retardant activities, it is important that you contact the Hepburn Shire Council on 5348 2306 from Monday morning.
“Hepburn Shire Council will work with you to determine if your water tank needs to be cleaned out prior to any human consumption of your water.”
The reticulated town water supply has not been affected.
The fire is believed to have been ignited by a smouldering tree from a lightning strike on January 30.
A community meeting will be held at 6pm at Daylesford Town Hall.
Central Highlands Water has been providing support to fire agencies and firefighting aircraft by providing access to recycled treated water from their water treatment plant at Shepherds Flat for firefighting uses.
A gusty wind change is expected to impact the fire ground between 5pm and 6pm, fuelling concern that the fire could change course.
Hepburn Springs fire contained, according to reports on the ground
Tony English from Forest Fire Management Victoria said firefighters had managed to contain the blaze with the help of six aircraft.
Mr English said a fire retardant boundary had been established to the north of Hepburn Springs to protect the township.
Overnight, CFA crews had defended several properties outside the town.
“We’re now preparing for change in conditions at about 5.30pm, which will shift the wind and could cause the fire to become more intense and pick up pace,” Mr English said.
An emergency alert remains present for the blaze.
Fire crews continue to mop up and douse flare ups in expectation of the cool change north of Hepburn.
Images from Mannings Road, which runs along the ridge top above the Springs Creek gorge show just how close the fire came to properties and how even slight breezes can reignite smouldering trees.
The CFA map shows the extent of the blaze believed to have been ignited by a smouldering tree from a lightning strike on January 30.
The community in Hepburn Springs, Hepburn, Daylesford and the wider region is banding together in the face of a destructive bushfire.
Social media pages are awash with offers of places to stay, and places to house pets and livestock, from residents and businesses alike.
The Farmers Arms Art Motel in Daylesford has offered free accommodation to those who have had to leave their home.
Manager Marguerite Thomas said nine rooms had been taken up so far.
“We’re just happy to help out,” Ms Thomas said.
She said everyone was calm, albeit looking a bit tired.
The fire has been burning for almost 24 hours now.
Ms Thomas said the situation was “very well-handled” by emergency services, and everyone had the highest regard for how the CFA and police had operated.
About 50 people are now at the relief centre in Daylesford.
Some people who have left their homes have found accommodation at caravan parks and hotels, while about 30 are still looking for accommodation.
The Daylesford RSL has announced it will not open today. The Daylesford Mill Market has also been closed today.
There will be a community meeting on Sunday at 6pm at the Daylesford Town Hall 74, Vincent Street.
A watch and act message has been issued for areas surrounding Hepburn as firefighters continue to battle the Elevated Plains – Mannings Road fire.
Residents of Bryces Flat, Daylesford, Elevated Plains, Kidds Gully, Dry Diggings, and Shepherds Flat should continue to stay informed and monitor conditions with the fire not yet under control.
Firefighters are on scene and will continue working to contain the fire.
Aircraft and heavy machinery are operating in the area.
Residents of these communities should monitor the situation for increased wind speed, change in wind direction, smoke or poor visibility which could indicate the situation is changing.
If the situation changes you will need to leave quickly. Plan to take your pets, medications, mobile phone and charger and travel to the home of family or friends that are away from the warning area.
A relief centre is open at Victoria Park, Burrall St off the Ballan-Daylesford Rd, Daylesford which will be open until further notice.
Emergency Services may not be able to help you if you decide to stay.
If you are away from home, do not return.
Weather bureau senior forecaster Richard Carlyon said the gusty wind change accompanying the cool change was expected to reach Hepburn between 6pm and 7pm, and through Ballarat about an hour earlier.
Wind will swing to the south and the temperature will drop about 10C, but the real danger lies in the squalls associated with the change with gusts expected to reach 60kmh.
The Avro RJ85 large air tanker, based at Avalon, has been dropping flame retardant over the fire near Hepburn since early morning.
Resident Michael Teague watched the first firebombing run from the helicopters last night from his 14th Avenue home, and said the intense aerial firefight was a relief with the fire burning in the inaccessible gorge.
Mr Teague decided to defy this morning’s evacuation orders and remain to defend his home.
“There’s still small puffs of smoke in the air but not as many now,” he told The Courier at 12.15pm.
Mr Teague said he was prepared if fire broke out of the gorge, with fire hoses at the ready and an 8000 litre pool to act as a reservoir.
The pool was supposed to be used for his daughter’s 12th birthday party – a sleepover and pool party – but her friends had to be sent home.
“We had my daughter’s party … but they all got out of here through the night. The whole hill behind was on fire,” he said.
A second emergency warning has been issued for Hepburn and Hepburn Springs, urging residents to leave now or emergency services may not be able to help if you decide to stay.
This Emergency Warning is being issued for Hepburn, Hepburn Springs.
There is a bushfire at Hepburn Springs that is not yet under control.
The bushfire is travelling in a southerly direction towards Hepburn and Hepburn Springs.
Hepburn and the northern section of Hepburn Springs could be impacted anytime within the next 2 hours. Leaving now is the safest option, before conditions become too dangerous.
Emergency Services may not be able to help you if you decide to stay.
What you should do:
You should leave using Main Road and head towards Daylesford.
The home of family or friends that is away from the warning area.
When you leave remember to take your pets, mobile phone and medications.
A Relief Centre has been established and is open at Victoria Park, Burrall Street off the Ballan-Daylesford Road, Daylesford until further notice.
In the car:
If you are travelling, do not enter the area. U-turn to safety.
Slow down and turn on your headlights. Smoke will make it difficult to see.
If you are unable to leave you should shelter indoors:
Close all exterior doors, windows and vents. Turn off cooling systems.
You must take shelter before the fire arrives. The extreme heat is likely to kill you well before the flames reach you.
Shelter in a room that has two exits including one directly to the outside. It is important to be able to see outside so you know what is happening with the fire.
If your home catches on fire and the conditions inside become unbearable, you need to get out and go to an area that has already been burnt.
If you cannot get indoors, other last resort options include:
Shelter in the middle of a large open area like a ploughed paddock, football oval or sporting reserve.
Get into a large body of water like a dam, lake, river, the ocean or inground pool.
Try to protect yourself from the fire's heat.
If you are caught in fire in your car:
Park behind a solid structure to block the fire's heat or pull over to cleared area.
Try to position the car towards the approaching fire.
Turn on your hazard lights and headlights.
Close all windows.
Turn off the air-conditioning and shut all the air vents.
Turn your car engine off.
Get down as low as possible below window level and cover up with a woollen blanket.
Impacts in your area:
The following roads are closed:
Cnr Midland Highway and Back Hepburn Road
Cnr Forest Avenue and Back Hepburn Road.
Cnr Main Road and Ninth St.
Cnr Main Road and Twentieth St.
Emergency Services request that motorists obey all signage in place in the area.
Many residents of Hepburn and Hepburn Springs were woken soon after 5am with a knock on the door from firefighters asking them to leave their homes as a potentially dangerous fire burned nearby.
CFA incident controller Brett Boatman said it was the first time in his career that he could remember that occurring.
The scrub fire burning in a nearby gorge threatens to break out of difficult terrain as north westerly winds pick up during the day.
“The fire is burning in the gorge around Spring Creek, which is really difficult to access and egress,” Mr Boatman said.
“There’s heavy fuel in there but it’s impossible for us to get in there. Crews can fight the fire when it comes up and out of the gorge but we can’t get in to the gorge to make a break,” he said.
The fire was first reported about 5.30pm Saturday with a watch and act message for the local area issued a short time later.
At 8.30am Sunday, Emergency Management Victoria issued an emergency warning asking people from Hepburn and Hepburn Springs to leave, with fears the fire could impact the town within two hours.
Another emergency warning has just been issued at 9.50am stating: “Hepburn and the northern section of Hepburn Springs could be impacted anytime within the next 2 hours. Leaving now is the safest option, before conditions become too dangerous.
“Emergency Services may not be able to help you if you decide to stay.”
A relief centre has been set up at Victoria Park, Burrall Street off the Ballan-Daylesford Road, Daylesford.
About 200 CFA, DELWP and Forest Fire Management firefighters, 50 fire trucks, four bulldozers and at least five aircraft are currently tackling the blaze before the fiercest fire weather conditions align later in the day.
“In terms of the fire fight, I heard someone say that it’s hand to hand combat … up against this gorge is really difficult and somewhat dangerous,” Mr Boatman said.
Crews have been deployed around the area based on where fire ground controllers see the greatest risk of the fire emerging from the gorge.
Mr Boatman urged people to stay away from the area to allow clear access for fire crews.
“If you’ve driven through Daylesford on a Sunday you know how busy it gets. We wants the roads as clear as we can for resources and, with a lot of aircraft flying over the fire, we know people get very drawn in with tunnel vision.”
Daylesford Market and the Lake Daylesford Swim Classic have been cancelled.
Roads are closed at:
- Cnr Midland Highway and Back Hepburn Road
- Cnr Forest Avenue and Back Hepburn Road.
- Cnr Main Road and Ninth St.
- Cnr Main Road and Twentieth Sth
CFA have escalated the warning for a scrub fire north of Hepburn that has been burning overnight.
The advice now recommends residents in Hepburn and the northern section of Hepburn Springs should leave now.
The warning issues at 8.30am states that the townships could be impacted anytime within the next 2 hours and leaving now was recommended before conditions become too dangerous.
Emergency Services may not be able to help you if you decide to stay, it notes.
The fire has currently burnt out an area north of the Spring Creek just hundreds of metres from the houses in Hepburn township.
Northerly winds fanned the fire late yesterday as it burnt across the Elevated Plains area after it was first reported at 5.30pm on Saturday
Hepburn Springs has a single main road connecting it to Newstead in the North and Daylesford in the south and is otherwise surrounded by the Wombat Forest.
Fire authorities also issued a watch and act for Elevated Plains, Hepburn, Hepburn Springs, Basalt, Dry Diggings, Mount Franklin, and Shepherds Flat after a grass and scrub fire broke out at Elevated Plains, north of Hepburn, soon after 6.30pm.
Within an hour the CFA, DELWP and Forest Fire Management had deployed at least 35 appliances to try to contain the blaze ahead of hazardous fire conditions on Sunday.
The fire, in the vicinity of Mannings Road, north of Dry Diggings Track, is travelling in a south easterly direction.
Sunday has been declared a day of total fire ban across the state with temperatures around Ballarat forecast to hit 37C, and elsewhere around the state as hot as 42C.
MORE TO COME