Victoria bushfires claim homes

Sweltering temperatures for the rest of the week will hamper fire fighting efforts in Victoria, with residents on alert after eight homes were lost and power cuts caused chaos across Melbourne.

One house was destroyed last night in a fresh blaze sparked by lightning near Steiglitz in the Brisbane Ranges, west of Melbourne, while seven otherswere destroyed by the Tatong bushfire at Toombullup, near Benalla in Victoria's northeast.

The same fire cut the main electricity inter-connector between Victoria and NSW, plunging hundreds of thousands of houses into darkness and affecting hundreds of traffic signals and suburban train services.

"The Tatong fire is the main area of concern. It grew to 27,000 hectares overnight from about 20,000 hectares yesterday afternoon and we lost seven houses at Toombullup," Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) emergency control centre spokesman Pat Groenhout said.

"It's still going very actively and putting a ot of pressure on to the south."

Residents in Burders Road, north-east of Toombullup, are under immediate attack from the fire front.

Ember attack is expected around Stringybark Creek Road and Graveyard Road, north-west of Tolmie, while residents of Toombullup, Tolmie, Archerton and areas north of Toombullup can expect embers and spot fires in coming hours.

In the far east, the Great Divide South fire has expanded east towards the Great Alpine Road, threatening the tiny mountain communities of Brookville, Doctors Flat and Swifts Creek, near Omeo.

A fire at Hermit Mountain, south-east of Corryong in the Upper Murray Valley, has grown to 840 hectares and remains out of control.

The Steiglitz fire has spread to 250 hectares.

Lightning started several other blazes overnight and were expected to spark other fires, Mr Groenhout said.

"We expect that we will see a few more as the day progresses and the conditions warm up, so we're looking to jump on those as quickly as possible with water bombers and crews and to get containment lines around them," he said.

"We've got basically hot conditions right through to the weekend now.

"We expect the winds to ease somewhat and humidity to increase but with those warmer temperatures humidity would have to increase a fair bit to give us much relief.

"It will be very difficult for us to get containment lines in and to do something active about these very large fires burning in dry conditions."
Source: AAP

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