Smoke haze creates panic in Bendigo

A THICK cloud of smoke descended on Bendigo about 7pm yesterday, sending some central Victorian residents into a panic.

Social networking sites Facebook and Twitter were abuzz with tweets and status updates from people inquiring about the cause of the smoke, while other Bendigo residents travelled to the One Tree Hill lookout.

It is believed some central Victorian residents also put their fire-ready plans into action and evacuated their homes.

A CFA spokeswoman confirmed last night that the smoke was not from any fires in Bendigo, but had blown from a blaze at Chepstowe, near Ballarat.

The fire was still raging last night and had claimed at least two homes, with 60 fire trucks in attendance.

The smoke was so thick over Bendigo that the city could not be seen from the One Tree Hill lookout.

Tania Harte from Bendigo visited the lookout with her children in a bid to determine the cause of the smoke.

“We’ve just come up here for a sticky-beak,” she said.

“I didn’t even know it was going on until I went outside to pick the kids up from the pool.

“The smoke’s just everywhere, it’s unbelievable.”

Another concerned Bendigo resident flagged down a Bendigo Advertiser car in an attempt to find out more information and whether there was any danger.

The temperature has hovered about the 40-degree mark since Friday, prompting severe fire danger ratings.

Two people suffered burns in the 500-hectare Chepstowe fire and the CFA was warning that  people should put their bushfire survival plans into action.

Elsewhere, there was a two-hectare grass fire at Wedderburn and five-hectare grass fire at Elmore.

Some cool relief is in sight today, with the temperature forecast to drop to 23 degrees, but central Victorians have been urged to stay vigilant.

CFA operations manager Alun Hughson said the danger was not yet over.

“With the hot spell people have probably stopped doing things, but when we get a cooler day they might think summer’s over and let their guard down,” he said.

CFA community education co-ordinator for the Loddon Mallee region Paul Tangey said people should be aware of fire danger ratings and keep up to date with current conditions with the CFA website or the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667.

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