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'Watch and act'
Victorian Bushfire Information Line: 1800 240 667
1. Martin Park Oval No. 2, Gordon Street, Wodonga (entry opposite Mark Street, Wodonga)
2. Kelly Park soccer ground, Lawrence Street, Wodonga
3. Birallee Park Football Ground, Marshall st, Wodonga
Or The home of family or friends that is away from the warning area
CFA crews will continue to fight through the night as the blaze is not yet under control.
Good progress was made throughout the day, with several major outbreaks prevented, but high winds remain a key threat.
Conditions could deteriorate quickly as major gusts are predicted throughout the evening and overnight.
Heavy machinery will focus on building containment lines.
Smoke is visible in the area and particularly heavy on the Hume Freeway from Klings Hill (Bald Hill) to the west of Wodonga.
Motorists are asked to slow down, turn on your headlights and drive carefully.
The Cube (in Hovell street, Wodonga) has been established as a relief centre. Representatives of Wodonga Council, Red Cross and DHS will be available.
Plunkett's Road and Coyles Road remain closed to the public. Business owners and residents will be allowed through with appropriate photo identification.
AN emergency alert is being issued for residents at the foot of the Warby Ranges near Wangaratta.
The 40ha blaze sparked at Lake Rowan between 4pm and 5pm today but is moving quickly through Bungeet and Boweya and is expected to reach the Warbys by 7pm.
A CFA spokeswoman said the fire would impact farmhouses in the area and, once it hit the Warbys, would likely start spot fires and start moving uphill quickly.
About 25 tankers are at the scene at the moment but air support is limited due to the high level of fire activity across the state.
Smoke is visible from Wangaratta and Glenrowan but those towns are not under threat.
Firefighters are struggling to control a bushfire burning near Woomargama and hold fears it may cross the Border into Victoria.
Four aircraft from have been bombing the Tunnel Road blaze for most of the day but it continues to burn out of control.
Rural Fire Service inspector Margie Wehner said 12 local trucks were tackling the 220ha fire.
Most were from local brigades such as Talmalmo but crews from Lavington, Jindera and Thurgoona are also on their way to provide extra support.
With wind gusts peaking at 60-70km/h and tipped to get worse, she could not say whether the fire would be brought under control soon.
"Our problem is that the fire is on the north-west side of a ridgeline which runs parallel to a road, and that road also runs parallel to the river," she said.
"As soon as that fire comes over the top of that rideline the embers are going to fly and could start spotting over the Border.
"That's the last thing we want because, as everybody knows, firefighters on the Victorian side of the river are busy enough as it is."
SEVERE WEATHER WARNING
Damaging winds averaging 60km/h and gusts of 95km/h are forecast right across Victoria this afternoon.
The Bureau of Meteorology says a cold front over central Victoria will move rapidly to the east of the state this evening and an associated deep low pressure system would pass just south of Tasmania.
Winds will rapidly ease inland on nightfall.
The highest winds in the Border area were recorded at Mount Hotham with a peak gust of 122km/h at 7am on Tuesday.
"If fire gets across Coyles Road and onto the Hunchback, we have some problems" CFA incident controller says @bordermail— Natalie Kotsios (@NatalieKotsios) December 16, 2014
WATER BOMBERS 'NOT AS GOOD AS HOPED'
Firefighters will be working right through the night at the west Wodonga bushfire, which is still not contained.
Incident controller Graham Healy said the use of three water bombers from Melbourne had not proved as effective as hoped.
Mr Healy said it had been hoped the aircraft would have a more “drenching” effect on the fire.
Several spot fires also popped up on the northern side but these were quickly brought under control.
Mr Healy said Plunketts and Coyles roads were closed to ensure firefighting vehicles could get through safely.
The roads are still open to local residents.
Crews are expecting the fire’s activity to remain steady.
PLUNKETTS and Coyles road have been closed and residents of west Wodonga are asked to remain vigilant as conditions are tipped to worsen.
Wind gusts have reached 70km/h and firefighters say the blaze could impact on homes at any time today, depending on weather.
Property owners and landholders in the area are asked to remain vigilant, review their fire plans and listen for updates as conditions may deteriorate quickly.
A community information meeting will be held at 3.30pm today at Victory Lutheran College Auditorium, 28 Drages Road, Wodonga.
All residents to the west of Parkers Road should attend this meeting.
When driving, slow down and turn on your headlights; smoke will make it difficult to see.
TALLANGATTA, THOLOGOLONG, BENALLA FIRES
SEVERAL small fires have sparked elsewhere in the North East this afternoon, but the CFA is urging people to stay informed, not alarmed.
Columns of smoke have been sighted in Tallangatta Valley on the JC Track and on Murray River Road at Thologolong, both just before 2pm.
A CFA spokeswoman said both were classed as small incidents at present, and it unknown at this stage what sparked those fires.
A small fire at Bullioh’s McCormacks Road has been contained, with about 11 vehicles in attendance, as is small grassfire at Walwa.
13:54 Tallangatta Valley - Jc Track, 15km Se Bullioh - Bushfire going (3 appliances, CFA district 24 ) http://t.co/9V7P6MqdxD— Incident Alert - D24 (@IncidentAlert24) December 16, 2014
The Department of Environment and Primary Industries are also attending small fires at Whiteheads Road, Berringama and on South Ridge Track, 18km west of Corryong.
A spate of fires around Lurg, near Benalla, are still going but are under control at the moment.
“Certainly at the moment the west Wodonga fire is our biggest concern,” the CFA spokeswoman said.
“There’s a lot of other activity but the vast majority are safe... but we want people to keep updated on their local situations for themselves.”
CHILD CARE CENTRES EVACUATED
Two Wodonga West childcare centres have taken the precaution of evacuating due to the Plunketts Road fire.
It is understood K 4 Kidz in Lawrence Street and NurtureOne Childcare in Moorefield Park Drive - which are owned by the same operator, based interstate - have chosen to close their doors for the day.
Rumours that other centres including Bumble Bees in Melbourne Road and the Wodonga TAFE childcare had also evacuated are untrue.
A spokesmwoman from the TAFE’s Kids on Campus said many parents had chosen to collect their children but they were officially still open.
A spokesman from Bumble Bees said they were keeping a close eye on updates from the CFA but were also still operating.
A community meeting on the west Wodonga fire will be held at 3.30pm today at the Victory Lutheran College auditorium.
Residents of the area are urged to attend.
The official alert is still watch and act, with police and SES doorknocking residents all morning.
A community info meeting on the West Wodonga area fire in the auditorium at Victory Lutheran College at 3.30pm today from @CFA_Updates— Wodonga Council (@wodongacouncil) December 16, 2014
- Houses being doorknocked but residents not told to leave
- Community meeting planned for this afternoon
- Aircraft 'bombing the hell out of fire' while conditions are good
- Firefighter hit by branch dropped by bomber, but has no injuries
- Wind change predicted for 8pm
- Western front under control, firefighting focused on the east
Waterbombers from Melbourne have already arrived. One dropped load about 15min ago, the next due in about 5min. #WestWodongafire— Natalie Kotsios (@NatalieKotsios) December 16, 2014
Police and State Emergency Service volunteers have started doorknocking houses to make householders aware of a 200 hectare blaze in west Wodonga.
They are focusing on isolated properties in the Plunketts, Coyles and Probyns road areas, though householders are not being asked to leave.
Rather they are being given details of the CFA's watch and act warning.
Authorities are also planning a community meeting for around mid-afternoon. When details are confirmed these will be released via the CFA website and media outlets.
CFA region 24 incident controller Graham Healy said this doorknocking did not involve many residents.
“People can stay where they are, but if they’re not confident they should leave,” he said.
Mr Healey said residents should keep a watch on what was happening.
If they were in doubt about their ability to defend their property they should leave, he said.
FIRE SIZE & LOCATION
The fire is located 3km west of Probyns Road and 4.5km west of Brewer Drive.
It has burnt 200ha in total but is roughly 110ha in size at 1pm.
The eastern side of the fire faces Danson Road.
The fire is contained on the western side but if the east cannot be contained it will threaten homes on the urban side of Wodonga.
A containment line is being established at the bottom of the eastern side of the hill.
Three planes have been called in from Avalon, with one monitoring the situation by air and the other two expected to start dropping water just before 1pm.
One firefighter has been hit by a branch that fell with water but the firefighter is not injured.
Mr Healy said the 150 firefighters involved in the incident were “not doing too bad”.
"The ground crews are doing tremendous work under quite stressful conditions," he said.
"Because it is so hot and dusty, they need to be particularly careful."
Firefighters are cautiously optimistic about their ability to contain the blaze, which was started by lightning from storms on Monday afternoon.
“But we’re not so confident that we shouldn’t be preparing the community,” Mr Healy said.
He said there had been no change to today’s weather forecast, though the wind change had been delayed until about 8pm.
Any wind change to the north west, he said, would create a longer fire front and so firefighters are now focusing on the eastern front.
Mr Healy said the quietest section of the fire was in the west and so the current response was focused on the eastern section closer to Wodonga.
“While we’ve got the aircraft we’ll bomb the hell out of it,” he said.
HIGH WINDS STILL A THREAT AT WEST WODONGA
High winds remain a key threat for CFA crews battling the west Wodonga blaze but fire chiefs are "quietly confident" they'll get it under control.
Firefighters have established a perimeter and managed to hold the fire in place but say if the wind picks up they'll be "in it all day".
The key pressure point is east of Black Range Road.
No evacuation notices have been issued but this could change quickly if the fire crosses the perimeter.
A public meeting is likely to be held later this afternoon but there are no further details at this stage.
WALWA AND CORRYONG
CFA crews are also tackling two small blazes on the Murray River Road at Walwa and Mount Morgan near Corryong.
The first fire is rated as small and is confined to grassland, while the Mount Morgan blaze has burnt out 1.9 hectares of bushland and is listed as under control
13:00 Corryong - South Ridge Tk, 18km West Corryong - Bushfire going (2 appliances, CFA district 24 ) http://t.co/BUR28wHERc— Incident Alert - D24 (@IncidentAlert24) December 16, 2014
Meanwhile, a CFA spokeswoman said control lines for a medium-sized bushfire at Lurg and Kilfeera, near Benalla, were holding.
Two strike teams, 14 tankers and a bulldozer are at the site of the fire, which was brought under control at 7.46am.
An aircraft is being used to find hot spots from the fire, which like many in the area was caused by lightning strikes.
The spokeswoman said the only concern was wind change now predicted to come through the area about 4pm.
Wind speeds would build up to 50km/h before a wind change from the north-west to west-south-west.
ALL CREWS CALLED TO WEST WODONGA
CFA strike crews from across the North East have been called into help battle the West Wodonga blaze with the increase in wind speeds across the Border in the past hour.
NORTH EAST THE MAIN FOCUS
THE West Wodonga bushfire remains the CFA’s main focus in the North East, with all other fires in the region declared safe or under control.
Up to 50 fires of various sizes were sparked by lightning strikes across the region on Monday afternoon, including in Chiltern, Rutherglen, Everton, Springhurst and Benalla, but overnight rainfall has helped the situation.
A CFA spokeswoman said a watch and act alert for a medium-sized bushfire at Lurg and Kilfeera, near Benalla, was downgraded after the blaze was brought under control about 7.46am.
“There is no threat to properties but smoke will be visible from that one,” she said.
A 1.9 hectare blaze at Mount Morgan, south of Corryong, is also contained with no threat to people or properties.
Residents are warned however to remain alert and monitor conditions.
Firefighters are attacking the head of the West Wodonga bushfire in a bid to contain it before an anticipated turn in the weather hits.
CFA District 24 operations manager Paul King said conditions were reasonable at the moment, but forecast winds averaging 65km/h could be devastating.
“It will wreck us if that transpires,” he said.
“It’s not too bad at the moment, because of the rain and humid weather overnight so we’re hoping to contain it before that happens.”
The 170ha grassfire is still not under control and is travelling slowly in an easterly direction from Black Range Road toward the western side of the city.
About 100 firefighters, 20 trucks and four water bombers are currently fighting the blaze.
Wodonga West residents are on watch and act alert.
1. Martin Park Oval No. 2, Gordon Street, Wodonga (entry opposite Mark Street, Wodonga)
2. Kelly Park Soccor Ground, Lawrence Street, Wodonga
3. Birrallee Park Football Ground, Marshall st, Wodonga
Or The home of family or friends that is away from the warning area, i.e.wodonga west