Update, Thursday, 7.15am: More than 20 trucks remain on scene at Benloch.
The fire is still contained to the 38 hectare site with crews monitoring the fire overnight.
Blacking out work is being continued by 23 truck this morning with backburning also taking place close to the fire’s containment lines.
“There is no indication the fire has grown but the backburning (works) is why the size changes slightly in each update,” a CFA spokeswoman said.
Update, Wednesday 3.41pm: The fire at Benloch remains within control lines, despite four spot fires.
Incident Controller John Pearce was confident firefighters can maintain control with the resources on scene and available for deployment, based on the weather conditions forecast.
But he was concerned about the potential for further spot fires over the control lines if the wind strengthened.
“There is still active fire within the control lines,” Mr Pearce said.
Fire brigades are blacking out at the fire ground. Two strike teams are expected to work on the fire overnight.
“We know there is going to be a slight weather change,” Mr Pearce said.
But he did not expect there would be any major issues.
The incident controller said said firefighters jumped on the spot fires ‘very quickly’, rendering them safe.
Two of the spot fires were within the containment lines, and two were outside.
Mr Pearce said the spot fires did not threaten homes or assets.
He urged residents to monitor the conditions and keep an eye out for possible sparks or embers.
While some of the fire ground is burnt-out, Mr Pearce discouraged people from entering the area because of the danger of falling trees.
Update, Wednesday 3.04pm: The spot fire on Kitchenhams Road in Benloch is now safe.
Update, Wednesday, 2.21pm: A spot fire has flared up on Kitchenhams Road at Benloch.
Emergency services are responding.
Update, Wednesday, 12.10pm:
Fire crews at Benloch are preparing to fight any potential flare ups from the fire contained last night.
Incident controller John Pearce said the fire burnt out to containment lines and earth breaks as planned overnight with crews working to consolidate those lines today.
“The fire is still burning in its containment condition and grew to 44 hectares (up from 25 hectares) overnight as planned,” he said.
“Yesterday had the potential to be worse but some magnificent work but crews on the ground and in the air helped minimise the spread of the fire.
“Ordinarily it takes two to three days to (put out a fire of this size) but the heat and wind changes are making us anxious to get blacking out done in as much depth as possible.”
Mr Pearce said wind changes and the stringybark country where the fire was burning meant the potential for flare ups was higher.
“Stringybark country is notorious for (throwing up) spot fires and embers that travel a great distance,” he said.
“Benloch is slightly elevated in the Cobaw Range, so the winds could be a bit higher and we want to be prepared for it.”
Mr Pearce said residents and people in the vicinity of the fire should remain vigilant.
“Residents should monitor the situation and keep an eye for sparks or embers,” he said.
“So far the fire has been contained to four private properties. No structural losses were reported yesterday apart from fencing.
“A few native fauna were unfortunate casualties but no livestock or people were injured.”
Update, Wednesday, 10.45am:
Crews from the CFA and the Department of Land, Water and Planning remain on scene at Benloch.
A CFA spokesman said 14 firefighting appliances are continuing to contain and mop-up the fire-affected areas.
“We are still actively monitoring the area with resources there for any potential spot fires” the spokesman said.
Update, Wednesday, 6.30am:
FIREFIGHTERS have worked through the night to keep a fire at Benloch contained.
Nineteen crews are at or near the scene this morning.
The Bureau of Meteorology has rated fire danger conditions in the north central region as “very high” and the central region as “high”.
Meanwhile, the BOM has rated conditions in the Northern Country, including Bendigo and areas north up to Echuca “severe”.
Northern Victoria is expected to be very hot and dry, with winds tending moderate to locally fresh south to southwesterly over north central and northeastern parts in the afternoon.
People in high fire danger areas have been advised to prepare bushfire survival kits and monitor their weather situation.
FIREFIGHTERS are confident they will be able to keep a fire at Benloch contained, despite the promise of another day of extreme weather conditions.
The maximum temperature in nearby Kyneton is forecast to be 38 degrees tomorrow.
Incident Controller John Pearce said the main work before nightfall today was to strengthen the control lines around the fire with mineral earth breaks.
He said crews would be working through the night to ensure the fire was safe.
“We’re confident crews will be able to keep the fire within the fire lines,” Mr Pearce said.
A wind change posed challenges for crews at the height of the firefight, causing the fire to jump a containment line.
But the most recent advice message from the CFA this evening stated there was no threat to residents of Benloch and nearby Nulla Vale, Baynton and Pastoria East, and traffic management points had been removed.
Incident Controller John Pearce praised today’s firefighting efforts, which involved almost 50 CFA appliances, 10 Forest Fire Management Victoria units and seven aircraft, with assistance from a number of bulldozers and graders.
At its peak, the blaze posed a threat to homes and lives. The nearest property was 500 metres from the fire.
Nearby residents were told it was too late to leave and advised the safest option was to take shelter indoors immediately.
The fire, which started about 1pm, was contained and declared under control by about 3.50pm.
Mr Pearce said the reported only property losses related to fencing.
There were no reported injuries, and no assets lost.
“From our point of view it as a good fire fight,” Mr Pearce said.
Today was a day of Total Fire Ban across Victoria, prompting a reminder from the CFA to have bushfire survival kits ready.
Tomorrow has not been declared a day of Total Fire Ban, though the fire conditions in both the Northern Country and North East districts are rated ‘severe’.
The fire danger in the North Central, Wimmera and Mallee districts is ‘very high’, while a ‘high’ fire danger rating has been given to all other districts – including the central district, encompassing Kyneton.
The temperature in Bendigo is expected to reach a peak of 43 degrees tomorrow with light winds in the middle of the day and into the evening.
Tomorrow’s forecast for Redesdale is similar, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting: ‘winds southerly 15 - 20km/h tending west to southwesterly 15 - 25km/h in the middle of the day then tending south to southeasterly in the evening.”
The mercury in Castlemaine is expected to peak at 41 degrees, while temperatures in Maryborough are expected to reach a top of 42 degrees.
Kyabram’s forecast maximum temperature is 45 degrees, while Echuca’s is 46.
Police are still investigating the cause of the Benloch bushfire.
Investigators have urged anyone with information to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Firefighters also responded to a grass fire at Hylands Lane in Heathcote today.
The fire was not deemed to be a threat to nearby residents and was declared safe just before 7.30pm.
UPDATE 8.52pm: The CFA has downgraded the threat to residents in areas surrounding the Benloch fire from watch and act to advice.
Firefighters will remain at the fire ground overnight to ensure the fire is safe.
UPDATE 4.15pm: A fire at Benloch has been contained and crews are working to build containment lines, to stop the fire moving further.
Five aircraft are responding to the fire, and 37 fire trucks are on the scene.
The CFA has warned that people still at home should leave now.
UPDATE 3.50pm: The fire is now contained and under control.
UPDATE 3.30pm: There have been 20 bush, grass and scrub fires across the state since midnight – with a ‘disturbing trend’ where many were connected to campfires.
UPDATE 3.15pm: A Vic Emergency media briefing is under way.
The most recent information is that the fire started about 1pm, and ‘significant resources’ have been sent to fight the fire – including six helicopters and an aircrane.
It is unclear how the blaze broke out.
Residents in the Kitchenhams Road area have been told to take shelter.
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp says the state is putting “every asset possible” into the firefighting efforts.
“For those people in that area, I want to reassure you that we are doing everything possible in relation to that fire,’’ he said.
“Because we don’t have fires in any other parts of the state, we can throw as many assets as we can at this particular fire.
“We want to pull it up as soon as we can.’’
The closest property is 500 metres from the fire, and while he says there is not a significant number of houses in the area, it was important to issue an emergency warning.
“Today is a spike day for us … no one can become complacent.’’
Mr Crisp says the three Ps are critical at this time of year – prepare, plan and public information.
UPDATE 2.55pm: Up to 50 vehicles are responding to an out of control fire at Benloch.
EARLIER: AN out of control fire is threatening homes and lives at Benloch.
The Country Fire Authority has issued an emergency warning, as a fire that started on Kitchenhams Road spreads quickly.
The CFA says the fire is threatening homes and lives.
The warning reads: ‘you are in danger and need to act immediately to survive. The safest option is to take shelter indoors immediately. It is too late to leave.’
Firefighting aircraft have been called in to assist.
Today is a day of Total Fire Ban across Victoria and the CFA warned bushfire survival kits should be ready.
Severe fire conditions have been declared for the northern country district, which encompass Bendigo as well as areas north to Echuca.
It has also been declared in the north central district, which covers Castlemaine, Redesdale and Maryborough.
The fire weather warning comes with advice to people in high fire danger areas to monitor the weather and finalise plans.
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