11 Jan 2010

Fire crews on high alert in Victoria, South Australia

6:23 pm on 11 January 2010

Australian fire crews are on high alert across two states on Monday as temperatures rise amid catastrophic bushfire conditions.

Catastrophic fire warnings are in place in parts of Victoria and South Australia, with residents being told there is still time to activate their bushfire survival plans and move to safer areas.

Extreme heat, strong winds and possible thunderstorms are expected to make conditions the worst since the fatal Black Saturday fires in February last year, according to the ABC website.

A code red catastrophic warning is in force in the Wimmera region, including the towns of Horsham, Stawell and Halls Gap, and forecasters say temperatures may reach 45 degrees Celsius in Melbourne on Monday.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment's Dennis Ward says people in the danger zone should leave.

Reports from Halls Gap say locals and tourists have been leaving the town.

In South Australia, catastrophic warnings are in place for the Eastern Eyre Peninsula, Lower Eyre Peninsula, West Coast, Mid North, Yorke Peninsula, Murraylands, Upper South East, Lower South East, Kangaroo Island and the Mount Lofty Ranges.

The South Australian Country Fire Service says people in those areas still have time to leave their homes for a safer place.

Victoria's CFA chief fire officer Russell Rees says people need to remember not to be complacent and get as much information as they can.