Fire probe begins, Vic wind threat remains


A wildlife sanctuary is rushing to evacuate up to 30 animals as a raging bushfire bears down on properties west of Melbourne.

An evacuation alert is in place for residents of Mambourin and Manor for an out-of-control fire that has burnt more that 1000ha of grassland from Little River.

Mt Rothwell Biodiversity Interpretation Centre is not in the direct path of the fire, but staff are working out how to evacuate its dingoes, bandicoots and quolls as a precaution in case of a wind change.

“We can see flames and smoke,” sanctuary site manager Annette Rypalski said.

About five staff and a few others will get the animals off the property, but there is nothing that can be done for about 1000 animals that freely roam the 420ha private sanctuary, she said.

ABC has reported the fire could be suspicious, with three ignition points.

However, authorities told AAP they cannot confirm what started the fire.

The fire started at 11.43am on Friday and 49 firefighting vehicles are on scene, supported by aircraft.

An evacuation centre has been set up at Norlane, in Geelong, for effected residents.

Failure to evacuate could be life threatening, the warning notes.

An advice warning has also been issued for people in Brophys Crossing, Cocoroc, Little River, Mambourin, Tarneit, Werribee, Wyndham Vale to keep an eye on the fire.

Trains between Wyndham Vale and Geelong are being replaced with buses.

Near Ballarat crews continue to battle high winds as they fight a bushfire that started yesterday.

The blaze has destroyed a shed after it spread south from Nash’s Road at Buninyong and scorched more than 40 hectares on Thursday afternoon, sparking an emergency warning.

As of Friday afternoon it remained under control but authorities warn locals to stay alert and monitor conditions, issuing a watch-and-act message for Durham Lead, Grenville and Scotsburn.

Senior meteorologist Peter Newham told AAP winds were gusting up to 70km/h across the state including around Buninyong.

“During daylight hours it is expected to have fresh north-to-northwesterly winds and it is likely a wind change will come through there (near Ballarat) about 8 to 11pm and shift southwesterly,” he said.

He said when the wind shift came, it would move “quite quickly”.

Scores of firefighters, backed by aircraft and bulldozers making firebreaks, managed to bring the fire under control overnight.

Ballarat is forecast to reach 36C with northerly winds at speeds of up to 40km/h, combining for a very high fire danger.

A severe fire danger is forecast for the Mallee, Wimmera and Northern Country districts.

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