Extreme fire risk weekend

BENDIGO fire crews are bracing for the most extreme fire risk yet this summer.

Saturday and Sunday have both been declared Total Fire Ban days and authorities have warned this weekend looms as a major threat for grass and bushfires.

“If you live in a high-risk location in the bush this weekend is the weekend to leave,” CFA regional director Mike Wassing said.

Mr Wassing said the spell of dry, hot days had created some of the most severe conditions since 2009.

“It's certainly the worst conditions this year that we've seen.

"This is not an average fire season. We've seen fires escalate very quickly, much quicker than they would in normal fire conditions.”

It will be a wind change without rainfall. It poses a real risk - Rob Price, DEPI

Saturday is expected to reach 40 degrees in Bendigo and remain above 30 degrees overnight before a 35-degree day Sunday. A strong wind change Sunday morning is expected to add an additional hazard.

Department of Environment and Primary Industries fire services regional controller Rob Price said the wind gusts could quickly change the direction of fires.

“The winds are going to be up to 70km/h in central Victoria,” he said.

"We're going to have strong winds coming through from the north and then a southwesterly change. 

"In the event that a fire does start, with the northerly winds, if we don't get on top of that very quickly it opens up a widefront for that fire."

Mr Price said the wind change was likely to come through between 8am and 11am Sunday coming through the south.

“It will be a wind change without rainfall," he said.

"It poses a real risk."

He said all available resources, including trucks and aircraft, were on standby.

"Everything is tinder dry," he said.

"It has been a long period of dry, baking weather matched with winds." 

"There is a very high level of concern for this weekend."

Extra warnings were issued for Echuca’s Southern 80 water-skiing event.

Police inspector Colin Renton said with a crowd of up to 140,000 people expected to line the Murray River it posed as a potential hazard.

"With conditions that are coming it only takes one careless spark or one camping barbecue and we've got a major catastrophe along the river," he said.

"We would not be able to remove those types of numbers given the timeframe and the conditions expected."

An incident control centre will be set up in Bendigo all weekend, with different agencies on high alert.

Mr Price said a number of control centres were operating across the state. The SES has also warned there is a high risk of storm damage with the winds on Sunday.

Extreme fire risk weekend

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