VIDEO: Victorians brace for extreme fire conditions

The stifling heat and vicious winds that fuelled a bushfire in Victoria's Gippsland region last week are expected to be repeated on Thursday, emergency services have warned.

The Gippsland fire has now burnt more than 60,000 hectares, destroyed houses and killed one person, and could flare again despite the close watch of firefighters.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley urged Victorians to remain vigilant and warned that the worst of the bushfire season could be yet to come.

Mr Lapsley said fire conditions were historically worse in February. Black Saturday, Ash Wednesday and fires in western Victoria in 1977 that killed four people and destroyed more than 100 houses all occurred in February."We have still got potentially the worst of the fire season to come," Mr Lapsley said.

"We know it's a long haul, but we need the community to stick with us.

"We've got a long way to go."

Mr Lapsley said there were other areas of the state that were of a concern to fire authorities apart from Gippsland and the Alpine region, where fires are already burning. Western Victoria, from Horsham to Warrnambool, and central Victoria, particularly between Avoca and Castlemaine, were at risk.

Fire crews are also battling a blaze at Mount Feathertop, north-east of Melbourne.

Several bulldozers were busy yesterday building fire breaks as five planes fought the flames.

A lightning strike started the fire on Monday afternoon at Smoko, about eight kilometres north of Harrietville on the Great Alpine Road.

Department of Sustainability and Environment officers contained, but did not control, the fire on Monday night.

It has since burned 1300 hectares and watch and act messages are in place for Harrietville, Falls Creek and Hotham Heights.

The fire was burning in rough. steep grass and timber country under an easterly wind influence yesterday.  The fire impacted onto the Grabine Road during the day, resulting in the road being closed. It has burnt out approximately 1783ha.

It is believed the fire started from a lightning strike around lunch time on Tuesday from storms in the area. 

A fire burns near Glenmaggie last week. Photo: WAYNE TAYLOR

A fire burns near Glenmaggie last week. Photo: WAYNE TAYLOR

Mr Lapsley said those who had made bushfire plans needed to enact them early, as fleeing a bushfire too late was an "absolute killer". Stan Hayhurst, 81, was found dead in his car at Seaton last Friday after the bushfire had ravaged the town.

"It takes nothing for a fire to take control, we know that, we've seen that in the last few weeks," Mr Lapsley said.

Premier Ted Baillieu said the warnings issued on Wednesday about conditions for the following day were almost identical as those issued last week.

Windy conditions combined with a high overnight temperature last Thursday helped fuel the Aberfeldy fire which tracked south before tearing through Seaton and Glenmaggie as the wind changed on Friday morning.

Victoria Police Commissioner Ken Lay said it was vital that the community kept a watchful eye on arsonists.

He said about 150 fires had been deliberately lit in the past month, and half of the 24 people charged with arson in that period were minors.

"It's important that if children are at home by themselves that parents know what they're doing," Mr Lay said.


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