By Rachael Ward and Melissa Meehan in Melbourne
Residents and holidaymakers in Grampians National Park have been told to evacuate immediately because of two raging bushfires.
Emergency warnings have been issued on Tuesday for out-of-control blazes at Bellfield and Mt Stapylton.
The orders to leave immediately apply to those in Halls Gap, Bellfield, Bellfield Settlement, Lake Fyans, Pomonal, Dadswells Bridge, Ledcourt, Roses Gap and Wartook.
The two fires are among five of concern across the state started by dry lightening as storms develop.
“All agencies have been working very hard over the last couple of days in preparation for today,” Emergency Management Commissioner Rick Nugent told reporters on Tuesday.
“We have hundreds of volunteers out on the ground, working incredibly hard to ensure that they get on top of these fires very, very quickly.”
The Mt Stapylton fire is set to head towards Dadswells Bridge and Ledcourt but conditions are “dangerous and unpredictable”, the emergency website stated.
People affected by that fire have been told to head towards Stawell, with authorities warning the Western Highway is closed between Horsham and the Warracknabeal-Stawell Rd intersection.
The Bellfield blaze is travelling in a southerly direction towards Pomonal, with people affected by that blaze being told to go towards Ararat using Ararat Halls Gap Rd.
Some 38 schools and 17 early childhood centres have shut due to the dangerous conditions.
A watch and act advice is also issued for all of Melbourne and stretching down Port Phillip Bay through to the Bellarine and Mornington peninsulas, with hail falling in areas.
A catastrophic fire danger rating has been declared for the Wimmera region, extreme fire danger is forecast for the Mallee, a high danger rating is in place for the rest of Victoria except for East Gippsland and there is a total fire ban in much of the state.
It’s the first catastrophic rating since the Black Summer of 2019-20, which was one of the most intense and catastrophic fire seasons on record in Australia.
Power providers have crews on standby to respond to any outages caused by damage to poles and wires, Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio told reporters.
Fire danger and heatwave conditions have also prompted warnings in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
The bureau forecast extreme fire danger in South Australia’s Mid North, Riverland and Murraylands areas.
In Western Australia, a severe heatwave warning is current for the Kimberley, Gascoyne and Central West Districts.
There is no total fire ban in Tasmania however the state’s fire service has stopped issuing permits in the south and north of the state until 2am Thursday and asked people to think carefully before lighting campfires and using machinery.
Who can be trusted?
In a world of spin and confusion, there’s never been a more important time to support independent journalism in Canberra.
If you trust our work online and want to enforce the power of independent voices, I invite you to make a small contribution.
Every dollar of support is invested back into our journalism to help keep citynews.com.au strong and free.
Ian Meikle, editor