Central Victoria struck by grass fires

Firefighting helicopters were called to three grass fires that burnt out of control across the region at the weekend.

A grass and scrub fire at Maldon yesterday afternoon was believed to have been started by sparks from a ride-on mower.

The fire destroyed 15 hectares of bushland after spreading quickly off Maldon-Bryants Road before two water aircraft were called in to assist with the blaze. No property was damaged in the fire that was declared under control just before 7pm. 

Sparks from another lawnmower started a fire that quickly spread across 15 hectares in Woodvale on Saturday. 

A helicopter dropped several loads of water on the fire, as 16 CFA trucks and 10 DSE vehicles worked to battle the blaze.

CFA operations officer Chris Jacobsen said the extreme heat and wind changes on the day of total fire ban meant the fire spread quickly. He said the fire threatened to cross the Loddon Valley Highway but was contained.

“If the wind change hit it could have spread a lot further. The work of the ground crews was exceptional to contain it where it was,” he said.

The helicopter was earlier called to a fire that threatened a house in Heathcote on Saturday morning.

Flames spread within 20 metres of a property, before firefighters were able to put it out.

Mr Jacobsen said the ground crews were able to protect the house but the amount of dry grass and scrub meant the area was badly burnt.

“With the amount of dry grass and wind, these fires are particularly dangerous,” he said. “We are in the Fire Danger Period. We have to be smart about how we use machinery. It’s a timely reminder for people to watch what machinery they’re using.

“The responsibility lies with the public.”

Fire services commissioner Craig Lapsley said the firefighting helicopter based in Bendigo was on a trial period this summer to allow quicker responses to large grass fires.

“It’s got bigger capacity, it’s faster and operates as a fire truck, meaning it goes straight out to incident call-outs rather than waiting to be dispatched.”

Mr Lapsley said the use of the helicopter at the weekend had shown the benefit of being able to get to a scene quickly.

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