Well yesterday day turned to night in a matter of minutes as towns in our area burned. At 3.30 pm yesterday it was pitch black street lights had to be turned on cars had to have their lights on and it rained black from the sky. This is one of the biggest bush fires in Victorian history and the end is not in sight, but atleast there is no real days forecast gain at this stage. We went for a drive last night to the outskirts of town and all you could see was a huge glow ringing the mountains behind us.
The following is an article from the Melbourne Heraldsun
EXTREME conditions have triggered new fires in Victoria including a swiftly growing blaze in the Gippsland region now bearing down on several towns.
Fire authorities late today said there was little doubt bushfires will destroy homes by the end of today, as flames finally reached towns in Victoria's south-east. After days of being on high alert, erratic winds finally pushed the Gippsland inferno into the township Licola. It had earlier torn through the remote township of Glencairn, but no properties were lost. Country Fire Authority (CFA) deputy chief office Graham Fountain said today was the first day since the bushfires began more than a week ago that communities had come under direct threat. "Today is the worst day since these fires started," he said. "There is no doubt that a number of these fires, progressively through the afternoon, will directly threaten homes and there is a high probability that we will lose some assets this afternoon. "It could be anywhere on the southern or eastern side of these fires - from Crooked River in the east, to Jamieson and Mt Buller in the west."
Mr Fountain said visibility was so poor in the state's south-east that it seemed like night. "The visibility in Bairnsdale and Sale is low, like the night-time sky. It's dark," he said. Fire authorities warn a fire front was expected to strike the Gippsland towns of Beardmore, Walhalla, Coopers Creek, Happy Go Lucky, Maiden Town, Morman Town by just after 6pm.Residents there have been warned it was too late to leave, and all precautions should be taken against radiant heat. At Coopers Creek, fire fronts were expected to have already hit the townships of Toongabbie, Cowwarr and Seaton - which were warned to prepare for extreme radiant heat as the blaze races across grassland and triggered spot fires.The fire near about 3km southwest of Rawson in the Central Gippsland region also threatens the townships of Glengarry, Tyers and Tjalla Estate.
Fire authorities said they were expected a wind change late this afternoon, with strong wind gusts expected to make the fire act erratically and generate heavy smoke and embers.In other developments, the Licola Road at Cheynes Bridge was closed due to flame and smoke preventing road access as the 42,000ha Mt Terrible fire approached within 5km of Licola. And in the Heyfield district residents of Briagolong, Valencia Creek, Boisdale, Bushy Park and Culloden were warned to expect an ember attack by 5pm. Earlier today, two schools were evacuated and homes were threatened at Drysdale on the Bellarine Peninsula after a fire broke out there, with 15 CFA crews at the scene. Another grassfire under the Westgate Bridge on the banks of Melbourne's Yarra River at Spotswood has been contained, despite concerns it was close to the Mobil refinery at Yarraville. And while temperatures dropped in Melbourne as a cooler weather moved into the state, the conditions are expected to worsen in the state's high country. So far, fires in Victoria have spread over 420,000ha amid a total fireban for the entire state today.
Today, the Prime Minister John Howard promised cash assistance to bushfire victims.Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) spokesman Kevin Monk said the fire danger would peak later today as conditions worsened. "From about now onwards, the temperature increases, the relative humidity decreases and we predict the fire to become more active," he said. A cool change, expected to hit between 5pm and 8pm would make conditions worse, bringing a south-west wind change gusting at up to 50km/h, Mr Monk said. Smoke has hampered firefighting efforts today, with 30 aircraft, including about 15 water-bombers, grounded due to poor visibility. Mr Monk said their absence would not have a major impact, with more than 4000 firefighters on the fire ground. Two of the biggest fires merged into one on Tuesday night, creating a mega-fire that now stretches at least 120km in length from Whitfield to Dargo. Two of the biggest fires, the Darling Cynthia fire and the North East Alps fire, have joined three other fires at Blanket Wood, Mount Hump, Scrubby Creek to create the mega-fire over 372,000ha. The Mt Hump and Blanketwood fires had already threatened Dargo, Briagolong, Castleburn and Crooked River. Another 85,000ha fire complex spread from Mt Terrible, south of Jamieson, to Governors/Mt Ligars is expected to join the huge conflagration tomorrow. The communities in a big arc from Dargo to Valencia Creek - those to the south and east of the major bushfires - are expected to come under threat. These areas include Mt Beauty, in the north-east, and Dargo, Waterford, Castleburn, Licola and Glencairn in Gippsland. Residents at Castleburn, Dargo, Valencia Creek, Briagolong, Crooked River, Gafney’s Creek and A1 Mine Settlement have also been warned their townships could come under threat a massive 372,000ha fire moving in the shifting wind. A threat warning was lifted for Glencairn yesterday, but residents were being told to remain on high alert with fire still within three kilometres of the town. Urgent threat messages have also been issued for Kevington, Gaffney's Creek and A1 Mine near Jamieson in the north-east. Across the state there are now 11 out-of-control bushfires as the fires continue to merge.
And forecasters predict a tough few months to come before the El Nino weather pattern breaks.
CFA deputy chief officer Graham Fountain said today's conditions were the worst since Sunday.
Mr Fountain warned firefighters could still be on the front line on Christmas Day and beyond.
"It's becoming more unlikely they will go out unless we get a big dump of rain," he said.
Another DSE spokesman Duncan Pendrigh said firefighters used yesterday's milder conditions to build containment lines.
So far containment lines protecting the Thompson water catchment appear to be holding, with the lines running from Eildon/Jamieson south to Matlock, and south-east to south of Licola.
Mr Pendrigh said the department had asked for help from fire authorities in Canada and the US, who are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
"They will help relieve some people who have been working pretty hard the past week," he said.
"I don't think we have seen the worst of it. We may have, but it's getting drier all the time, which provides such a large engine room of energy for this fire and plenty of fuel."
As thick smoke from the bushfires blanketed the city again yesterday Melbourne residents were also warned wildfire was not confined to the bush.
Metropolitan Fire Brigade deputy chief fire officer Keith Adamson said the fire danger was very real, even in the suburbs.
A recent fire in Beaumaris showed how easily a blaze could get out of control in the dry conditions .
"I saw parkland there that would not normally burn," Mr Adamson said.
"People nearby had spot fires in their back yard."
The end of El Nino may be nigh, but the much-needed rain will not come quickly enough.
Weatherzone's Matt Pearce said El Nino had been the major cause of the fires.
"Temperatures are likely to remain well above average . . . through summer and into early autumn," Mr Pearce said.
Prime Minister John Howard praised firefighters yesterday as he forecast a disastrous summer.
Mr Howard visited Whitfield, in northeast Victoria, and offered government support to the region that has been under siege for more than a week.
"I'm just in awe of what the men and women of the CFA have done," he said.
Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd also flew to Bairnsdale, in the east, and agreed the state was in the grip of a "massive bushfire crisis".