Fire puts campers at risk

Campers have been evacuated from Mount Richmond in the state’s south-west after a fire tore through nearby pine plantations.

The fire on the Portland-Nelson Road at Kentbruck has burned through 1270 hectares and is heading north, the Country Fire Authority says.

The pine plantation fire is the most significant one to take hold since a total fire ban was put in place across Victoria on Friday. The emergency warning for the fire has since been downgraded.

Twenty fire trucks are on the scene along with four large bulldozers. Two planes and two helicopters are also dropping water from above.

Campers were being evacuated at camping grounds the CFA said could be at risk at nearby Lake Monbeong and Swan Lake.

Portland Nelson Road was also closed to traffic in the surrounding area.

Meanwhile, another out-of-control fire near Kalimna West in the state’s east was brought under control before 7pm and a fast-moving fire near Ensay, north of Lakes Entrance, is also being controlled.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said there had been no other major fires in Victoria on Friday.

Commissioner Lapsley said the fire at Kentbruck would likely ‘‘take some time before we’ll get control (of the fire)’’.

While the fire remained within the park when he spoke to media about 3pm, he said that the state control centre was considering closing Princes Highway between Portland and Nelson.

‘‘It will run into small hamlets in the communities that are on the eastern side of the fire towards Portland,’’ said Commissioner Lapsley.

‘‘(But) it has no major settlement in its immediate forward rate of spread...in its line it will run in plantation and forest areas.’’

Commissioner Lapsley said that a south-westerly wind change was expected to go through Victoria between 5pm and 7pm, which would significantly impact the spread of the fire later on.

‘‘A traditional south-westerly wind change sees the fires normally increase in size and...most of the time that’s where we lose and have the most impact on structures, loss of property.’’

He advised people in the area to stay tuned to ongoing updates about the fire.

‘‘Stay away from the fire, if you’re on the eastern side of the fire I would suggest that Portland would be a place to go, a place that’s not very far away but a very safe place and that would be one of the considerations for people to look at.’’

He said people planning to stay and defend their properties needed to be dressed properly and well-prepared.

Mr Lapsley blamed earlier complaints about delays on the CFA website and glitches on its FireReady mobile phone app on a surge in demand on Friday, with up to 700 users visiting the website per second at 12pm.

‘‘There’s some key lessons today that we thought we had the modelling right to suit the needs of the Victorian community and we’ve been challenged.

‘‘The site’s stood up at that time, it’s been slowed, it has had trouble keeping up with the demand, it has not been a site that’s fallen over.’’

He said developers would continue to monitor and improve the website and mobile phone app over the next week.

Friday's cool change was expected to bring cooler temperatures to parts of the state on Saturday, reducing the threat of bushfires, but the CFA is warning that the north of the state will be most at risk.

Mr Lapsley said Saturday would be ‘‘critical’’ for northern Victoria with temperatures forecast at a maximum of over 40 degrees.

A fire danger rating of very high has been issued in northern Victoria, including the Mallee, Wimmera and Northern Country regions, while the fire risk in the south of the state has been downgraded to high.

A CFA spokeswoman said Saturday would not carry a state-wide fire ban.

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