TEN thousand firefighters are on alert across Victoria's north-west, with strike teams on a "hair trigger" to respond to any blazes that break out.
Grass fires will "run hard" today Epsom incident controller Mark Gilmore said.
"And forest fires will be a struggle to stop. That's significant," he said.
READ MORE: Code red fire warning for region
Mr Gilmore was brought out of retirement because of the need for people - especially experienced firefighters - during the first Code Red day in nearly a decade.
"That gives you some indication of what we are up against today," he said.
Three aircraft have been stationed at the Bendigo airport, fire behaviour experts are tracking the region's wind, temperature and humidity levels and crews are "sitting" on sites where controlled burns have recently taken place.
The focus across the entire Loddon Mallee region is on anywhere where there are people.
"We target anywhere where there are people in the landscape. The way we do that is to jump on fires early," Mr Gilmore said.
"We have no way of telling where a fire is going to occur but there are high risk zones where, for example, the schools have closed."
Firefighters are especially concerned about an expected wind change which the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting will hit the region between 2pm and 5pm, Mr Gilmore said.
Any fire that breaks out before the change will be blown straight downwind, creating a "cigar" shaped fireground, he said. When the wind changes, sparks and spot fires along a blaze's eastern flank will erupt.
"The exact timing of that wind change is very difficult to forecast. What we do is monitor the wind as it comes," Mr Gilmore said.
The wind conditions could also break off branches and uproot trees so fire authorities are monitoring for blocked roads and other potential escape route.
"We also have heat health effects from a warm night when people have not slept and the heat today could be very distressing for people," Mr Gilmore said.
Ambulance and police liaison officers are in Epsom's Incident Control Centre ready to help coordinate any issues that arise, Mr Gilmore said.
It is not clear whether there will be another Code Red this summer.
"What we know is that this was very early for one to occur," Mr Gilmore said.
Conditions are not quite as bad as 2009's Black Saturday, when one Bendigonian died and many lost homes, he said.
READ MORE: Black Saturday, 10 years on
"Grassland is high-risk but forests are slightly lower than Black Saturday. It's earlier in the season so there are slight amounts of moisture there."
A fire today could be started by a silly act like mowing or using power tools outside, but the CFA has found that people in central Victoria have become more attuned to the dangers of high fire risk days, Mr Gilmore said.
"The community gets it, so we are seeing less and less of those stupid fire acts," he said.
Mr Gilmore urged people to stay vigilant.
"We want people to have already cleaned up around their property, not do anything that might start a fire and not panic today," he said.
"They are the sorts of things that will keep us all safer."
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