TWO firefighters have been killed while battling a bushfire near Harrietville, the Australian Workers Union says.
In a statement on Wednesday evening the AWU Victorian Secretary Cesar Melhem said two Department Sustainability and Environment firefighters had been killed in the line of duty.
Authorities are yet to confirm any deaths, with State Control Centre spokesman Gerard Scholten saying earlier there had been "a serious accident" on Wednesday afternoon among crews near Selwyn in Victoria's alpine region. But he said it was too early to comment on their condition.
"We just don't know," he said.
"We have sent crews out there and an ambulance. I know there has been some wire copy about. But until we arrive at the scene we won't know what has happened."
In a statement the Department said it: "can confirm there has been a serious accident at the Harrietville – Alpine North fire. Police and ambulance are responding."
Mr Melhem said the loss was shattering for the families of those who perished, for their workmates, for their communities, for the union, and for all Victorians.
“These DSE firefighters work in the most horrific conditions imaginable, away from the big centres, out in the bush, and with very little recognition for their heroic contribution to this state,” Mr Melhem said.
“They have died heroes, which will be small comfort to those that grieve them.”
“We want answers, and we want those answers to make sure that this does not happen again,” Mr Melhem.
Mr Melhem said AWU officials were on the way to the scene and would conduct an investigation in conjunction with DSE, and was already in consultation with the department over the circumstances of the incident.
Mr Melhem had earlier told Australian Associated Press that news of the deaths had come from the union's members.
The Harrietville fire started by lightning late last month and has burned 27,000 hectares.