4 Mar 2019

Victora bushfires destroy homes, close schools

2:31 pm on 4 March 2019

Bushfires are continuing to threaten numerous communities in south-eastern Victoria despite milder overnight weather conditions.

Image from an ABC video showing intense fires burning in eastern Victoria.

Flames in trees as intense fires burn in eastern Victoria. Photo: ABC / Screengrab

An emergency warning remains in place for the out-of-control Budgeree fire in the state's south-east, which has burned 1500 hectares and is still growing.

By yesterday at seven buildings, including homes, had been destroyed by separate bushfires at Bunyip and Yinnar North

The fire burning near the Bunyip State Park has been downgraded to a Watch and Act after lighter winds helped firefighters gain ground.

State control centre spokesman Luke Heagarty said fears that strong south-westerly winds would last night push the Bunyip fire east had not been realised.

"Those winds didn't quite eventuate and didn't spread the fire in the direction we were expecting," he said.

Mr Heagarty said firefighters would today take advantage of more favourable conditions to build strong containment lines around the Bunyip fire.

"We've got a bit of respite now, but the next few days are still going to present some challenges to us," he said.

Many residents face a nervous wait today as they try to get information about whether their homes survived.

Mr Heagarty said seven structures had been destroyed in fires across the state, but it was not clear how many of these were homes.

He said firefighters had successfully protected electricity transmission lines at the southern end of the Bunyip blaze, ensuring transmission between the Latrobe Valley and Melbourne remained intact.

The Princes freeway remains closed and the trains are being replaced with buses on the Gippsland line between Warragul and Traralgon.

People are being urged to defer non-essential travel.

Victoria's Department of Education and Training said 23 schools would be closed on Monday across the region, including primary schools in Churchill, Drouin and Yinnar.

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said despite the improved conditions, with 19 fires burning across the state, firefighters could not become complacent.

"Even where it's cooler, it's still really, really dry, and we've got fire risk across the state as a whole," he said.

The weather bureau's Christie Johnson said firefighters would face more favourable weather conditions today.

"The fire danger is not as extreme as it has been over the past few days," she said.

Maximum temperatures in the mid-to-high 20s were expected in the main fire areas, with higher humidity helping fire crews.

There was a chance of showers and thunderstorms in the area of the Bunyip blaze this afternoon, but this would not bring much rain and would bring a risk of lightning strikes.