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Temperatures soar as smoke haze sweeps across the state

POSTED: 
20 December 2019

Temperatures in the high 40s are being felt across the state today, as Victoria swelters through what is the third day of heat wave conditions in some parts of the state.

By early afternoon the mercury had soared to over 46 degrees in Mildura, as thick smoke haze from New South Wales and ongoing fires in Gippsland, blanketed the state.

An air quality message was issued around lunch time for the entire state, advising light winds are likely to mean that smoke will continue to impact air quality until Saturday morning.

The smoke and dust visible in some areas may reduce driving visibility and drivers are encouraged to drive to conditions.

The extreme heat and gusty southwesterly change expected to cross the state late this afternoon has elevated fire danger to EXTREME in Wimmera and South West, SEVERE in the Mallee, Northern Country, North Central, Central and VERY HIGH across the rest of the state.

A state-wide Total Fire Ban is also in place today as a result of the extreme conditions. No fires can be lit in the open air or be allowed to remain alight in the open air, including campfires and burn-offs, anywhere in Victoria today.

By early afternoon, there have been 27 new fire starts, with two Watch and Act warnings in place for fires burning near Dunkeld and Brookville.

Emergency Management Commissioner, Andrew Crisp said that while Victoria’s fire agencies and emergency managers are on alert and prepared for today’s conditions, the community cannot become complacent and should remain vigilant.

"Despite experiencing a mild start to summer, we are seeing hot, dry and windy conditions today, which is elevating fire danger and fire activity," he said.

"East Gippsland has already experienced several bushfires, with three going fires having burnt approximately 50,000 ha."

"Fire agency crews are well prepared, and it’s extremely important that the community is ready, not only for tomorrow, but for the months to come."

A fleet of 60 aircraft comprising of a mix of water bombing aircraft, air supervision and aerial intelligence gathering aircraft are also available today to respond to fires across the state.

Mr Crisp said Victorians should take action to protect themselves from the today’s heat which is likely to continue in to the evening and look after those most at risk.

"This includes your neighbours living alone, the elderly, the young, people with medical conditions and don’t forget your pets."

"Stay aware of your surroundings and if you’re travelling or in unfamiliar places, make sure you are aware of the local risk. Know how to stay informed and never rely on one source for emergency information."

Victorians are reminded to connect to multiple sources for emergency information, including the VicEmergency app, www.emergency.vic.gov.au, tuning in to ABC radio or other emergency broadcasters including commercial and community radio stations or Sky TV or by phoning the VicEmergency hotline on 1800 226 226 and following VicEmergency on Facebook and Twitter.