Bushfire Morning Update: Worse than Black Saturday

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By Athena Yenko | February 10, 2014 1:00 PM EST

Six thousand firefighters are doing their best to stop more than 25 incidents of bushfire across Victoria on Feb 10. As of Monday morning, 40 km fire seemed unstoppable and was posing danger to communities north of Melbourne. During the night, there were already 20 houses destroyed. According to officials, the bushfire is far worse compared to the Black Saturday fire which happened in 2009.

 In the afternoon of Sun, Feb 9, the CFA issued an emergency warning for the Gisborne and Sunbury areas. The fire was already moving from Dalrymple RD towards Mundy Rd.

At about 10 am of Monday, Feb 10, 28 fires were still out of control. The firefighters were only able to control one of the 18 fires destroying Melbourne north and Macedon Ranges. Alarm was still raised in towns in central and far east Gippsland. Fortunately, a cooler weather is working in favour of the firefighters.

At 11 am, classes were suspended across the regions. The 1,200 students at Assumption College in Kilmore were told to stay out of danger inside their homes. Principal Michael Kenny advised that classes will resume when it is already safe for the students.

 "We're monitoring where the fires are and while they're still out-of-control we won't be bringing the kids back. The safety of our students and staff is paramount at the moment.We might have to extend the closure depending on the conditions."

In the Kilmore-based private school, boarders were asked to evacuate to the football area for safety as they were being look after by the Kilmore Leisure Centre.

Farther, schools in Cann River, Mickelham, Morwell, Goongerah and Devon had also suspended their classes.

Alarm were still in raised across the Wallan and Darrawiet Guimeven even if firefighters were successful in stopping the grassfire.

At past 10 am residents at Morwell were already allowed to go back to their houses as emergency warnings were downgraded and roads were open to transportations.

Traralgon Incident Controller Laurie Jeremiah told residents to keep updated by midday as fires may happen again and they might be asked to leave their houses again.

 "The wind has disappeared, but the fires aren't out. It might have gone quiet, but as the sun warms up we'll start to get fire activity again.We've lessened community warnings and residents can take a breath now. But after lunch, we'll start to ramp them up again. After midday, (residents will be asked to) stay out or stay put," Mr Jeremiah said.

Two strong fires joined to create an inferno-like fire in the Latrobe Valley. Fortunately, a home for the elderly and a hospital were not affected.

For those traveling to or out of the area, the Princes Highway remains closed between Moe and Morwell but these roads were already passable via Princes HWY from Traralgon.

Brown Coalmine Rd also reopened this morning as the fire threat to Tyers was downgraded.

Latrobe City Council acting chief executive John Mitchell reported that 430 residents were evacuated from Morwell, Tyers and Glengarry - 200 chose to stay at the centre even if allowed to come back home.

At Traralgon's performing arts centre, 229 evacuees sleep for the night.

At 9 am, Victorian Premier Dennis Napthine acknowledged the efforts of firefighters and CFA members in fighting the fires across the state.

 "We will continue to work with our emergency service agencies to make sure we get these fires that are currently threatening areas still are placed under control as quickly as possible. We've certainly learnt the lessons from Black Saturday five years ago. We have better warning systems in place (and) we have better interoperability of our emergency services so all agencies work together in a more constructive way," Dr Napthine said on Channel 9's Today Show.

Meanwhile, FIRES Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said that arson squads were looking at the possibility of  fire bugs as culprits for the bushfires. He said suspicious roadside fires near Melbourne have drawn the attention of police.

"We've got a mix of lightning and certainly the human hand would have played a (part), whether it was malicious in an arson sense or just foolishness is the bit we'll work with police to get through. That's the investigations we'll do and we'll do that in normal course. At the moment they're (CFA) saying it (the fires) hasn't impacted on operations or power generation but it's one of the key issues of being in the (Latrobe) Valley. Obviously the critical thing today is - as we always do - we'll work very closely with the power industry to make sure that (the risk) is minimized," Mr Lapsley said.

"The conditions are better though. Once you get the temperature out of the day and the wind has gone away you've got a far better hope of controlling (the fires) whereas yesterday it was trying to put the resources where they'd have the best impact,"Mr Lapsley added. 

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