Victoria fires: more than 30,000 evacuations urged ahead of Wednesday’s bushfire risk

<span>Hot, windy conditions could spread a nearby fire to the towns of Amphitheatre, Beaufort, Clunes, Elmhurst, Lexton, Glenbrae and Learmonth.</span><span>Photograph: Reuters</span>
Hot, windy conditions could spread a nearby fire to the towns of Amphitheatre, Beaufort, Clunes, Elmhurst, Lexton, Glenbrae and Learmonth.Photograph: Reuters

More than 30,000 Victorians have been urged to leave their homes ahead of what authorities fear could be the worst fire day for the state in four years, with temperatures forecast to reach the mid 40s in some areas.

Authorities on Tuesday urged people living in a potential fire impact zone between Ballarat and Ararat, in Victoria’s west, to leave their homes overnight or by Wednesday morning.

Victoria’s Emergency Management commissioner, Rick Nugent, said about 30,000 people in the area, including in the towns of Amphitheatre, Beaufort, Clunes, Elmhurst, Lexton, Glenbrae and Learmonth, would be notified via text message on Tuesday to leave.

Related: Victoria fires: more than half of state on extreme bushfire danger alert as hot weather forecast

He said hot and windy conditions forecast for Wednesday would probably cause an exisiting bushfire at Bayindeen, north-west of Ballarat, to spread, potentially affecting the towns.

“Fire, spot fires and ember attack are quite possible in these areas; these could result in loss of homes, closure of roads and isolating [of] communities,” Nugent told reporters.

“If you are located in these areas, we ask you to leave.”

Nugent said the Bayindeen bushfire had burnt through 21,300 hectares, and destroyed six homes and 10 outbuildings since it started on Thursday.

“Its devastating for families to lose all of those possessions but they can be replaced; a life can’t,” he said. “This is all about saving lives.”

Two relief centres have been set up in Ararat and Maryborough for people planning to leave, while residents of aged care communities in the area and all prisoners from the Langi Kal Kal prison have already been evacuated.

Nugent said anyone in bushfire risk areas in the Wimmera region in the state’s west, which now has a catastrophic fire danger rating, or the five other regions where an extreme fire danger is forecast should also consider leaving.

“Essentially, half of our state is in our high fire danger rating tomorrow,” he said.

Related: ‘Grave concern’ over Wednesday heat spike in Victoria after six homes destroyed in bushfires

“If you are in a bushfire risk area, please leave and leave early.”

The Country Fire Authority’s chief officer, Jason Heffernan, said any fire that begins in the Wimmera on Wednesday could become “uncontrolled very quickly”.

“No homes are designed to withstand those catastrophic conditions,” he said.

The premier, Jacinta Allan, said Wednesday would be “incredibly difficult” with temperatures soaring to the mid-40s in north-west Victoria, and to the high 30s and low 40s for the rest of the state. An afternoon cool change was predicted to bring wind gusts of up to 80km/h and dry lightning.

“Tomorrow is likely to be one of the most dangerous fire days Victoria has experienced in recent years,” she said.

About 110 firefighters from New South Wales have been deployed to Ballarat and Halls Gap, alongside thousands of Victorian firefighters and more than 60 aircraft.

Allan said about 100 schools and early childhood facilities will close on Wednesday as a precaution, with the department to notify affected families.

In Melbourne, the mercury is expected to reach 38C on Wednesday, with north to north-easterly winds of up to 50km/h shifting west to south westerly in the late evening.

There is a chance of a thunderstorm in the afternoon and evening but authorities do not expect to see a repeat of the destructive storms that left more than half a million homes without power in Victoria.

The energy minister, Lily D’Amrobosio, on Tuesday announced longtime consumer advocate Rosemary Sinclair would chair a review into the response by energy companies to the storm.

Gerard Brody, the former chief executive of the Consumer Action Law Centre, and Kevin Kehl, former electrical engineer and executive leader at Powerlink Queensland and Energy, are also on the panel, which is expected to deliver an interim report to the minister in June and final report in August 2024.