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Fires southwest Victoria: Dairy cows succumb as blazes rage

MILKING herds have been lost in the Terang and Cobden areas, as fires continue to rage in southwest Victoria.

Scotts Creek dairy farmer Matt Grant says fellow farmers in the Cobden and Terang region have “lost their entire herds”.

He spent all night fighting fires and said conditions were “pretty hair-raising”.

“I haven’t seen the damage in the daylight, but there has been a lot lost,” he said.

“We got the call out at 9.30pm last night and I got home at 8am. Thankfully my farm is 10km from latest flare-up and we’re OK here.”

With electricity down across much of the Cobden and Terang area, many farmers are scrambling to find generators, or walking their cows to their neighbour’s farms so they can milk their cows.

“Our cows haven’t been milked for 24 hours. We’ve had to call in a few favours and got some generators so we can get going with milking,” Mr Grant said.

The Weekly Times understands several milking herds in the Terang area have been entirely or partially lost in the fires.

At other fires further north, Angus breeders, the Moyle family, Pathfinder at Gazette near Penshurst, has also been hit. One home was lost on the property.

Meanwhile, crews hold grave concerns that the two large out-of-control fires in southwest Victoria could merge to form a super blaze as conditions worsen.

Senior station officer Peter Lowe said strong winds shifted early this morning putting them on a collision course.

“Conditions are making the effort difficult where we now have to fight the fires on multiple fronts,” he said.

The towns of Camperdown, Cobden and Timboon remain under fire threat.

Winds are pushing the fires in a south-easterly direction, but a strong westerly wind change is expected to impact the blazes soon.

Already four properties have been lost from the fire which originated in Terang, but authorities fear there will be many more.

Deputy Premier James Merlino said it was the biggest fire event of the season.

“This has been a difficult weekend,” Mr Merlino said.

“The wind will remain all day and it is quite a big fire front.”

At this stage he said 10 to 12 homes had been impacted by the fire.

The fires are believed to have been caused by lightning strikes but the Victoria Police arson and explosives squad is investigating to rule out foul play.

Not all of the properties were occupied and there have been no deaths or serious injuries.

However, lots of beef and dairy cattle have been lost.

A total of 29 firefighting aircraft have been used to tackle the fires with 280 firefighters working on the ground to battle the blazes in the state’s west.

Around 800 people have reported to relief centres for information and assistance.

Craig Lapsley, Emergency Management Commissioner of Victoria, said seven “push messages” were sent out to phones and devices throughout the night. The messages reached 70,000 devices.

Mr Lapsley said: “We acknowledge it was very challenging to get information out in the early stages.”

As the fire was at night, and aircraft were not being used, it was difficult for emergency services to accurately tell the locations of the fires in the early stages.

Peter Otto, acting state manager of the Victorian Bureau of Meterology, said this afternoon that the fire warning remained for southwest and central parts of the state.

“We are still expecting some severe fire dangers through this afternoon, that will ease tonight,” Mr Otto said.

“We also have this potential for damaging wind gusts over the southern and eastern parts of the state.”

Paramedics assessed about 12 people at relief centres for minor injuries including cuts, abrasions, sprains and mild asthma.

None required transport to hospital.

A community meeting has been scheduled in Cobden for 5.30pm at Cobden Civic Hall on Victoria St.

Mr Lapsley said thousands of homes are without power in the southwest.

There are a number of emergency warnings still in place for towns including Cobden, Timboon, Simpson and Camperdown.

Residents in those communities have been told it is too late to leave.

The fires began last night and are causing significant challenges for fire crews.

“In western Victoria significant fires all started after dark and therefore has been a very difficult night for crews on the ground to endeavour to pull those fires up,” CFA deputy officer Gary Cook said.

“Those fire are still running, they are still running under significant wind.”

Mr Laspley warned the fire danger will continue throughout the day,” he said.

“We will see potentially more fire in the landscape today.

“The wind will be very strong all morning and reaching into the afternoon.

“Victorians need to be very careful this Sunday.”

A CFA spokesman said last night Hawkesdale is “extremely dry” and is being lashed with “extreme winds”.

“If you are located in Hawkesdale, it is strongly recommended that you evacuate now and seek shelter at The Arc Gymnasium Stadium located on the Caramut Road in Warrnambool,” read a CFA warning.

Authorities have grave fears multiple fires could come together, creating an enormous front about 45kms north east of Warrnambool.

Homes are under serious threat, with residents fleeing the quick-spreading fires affecting up to 20 towns.


Source: The Weekly Times

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