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Two bushfire alerts issued as Victoria endures scorching Saturday

Residents of Moggs Creek, Big Hill and Memorial Arch were also told to prepare to evacuate. But at 6pm on Saturday, the warning was reduced, and locals were told it was safe to return to the area as the fire had remained within the containment lines.

Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Matthew Thompson said winds caused rapid fluctuations in the weather, which saw the temperature plummet from 33 degrees to 23 degrees quickly at about 1.30pm, before the temperature shot back up to 28 degrees by 4pm.

By 4.30pm, the cool change had reached the Otways.

An out-of-control bushfire was briefly burning just north of Seymour in central Victoria, causing a watch-and-act to be issued at 2pm for the towns of Hilldene and Northwood. However, it was downgraded to an advice message, and Seymour itself – which was inundated by flooding last year – was told there was no immediate threat, but residents should stay informed.

Much of Lorne itself remains under an advice message for an under-control fire one kilometre north of the town, but there is currently no threat to residents.

On Saturday, total fire bans were active for western, central and northern parts of Victoria – only the Gippsland and north-east areas were exempt. Extreme fire danger ratings were also issued for the Wimmera, South West, North Central and Central districts.

Heffernan warned at a press conference that Saturday’s weather represented “the most significant fire day the state has seen this season”.

“And probably, significantly, the biggest fire day that we’ve seen since that devastating [2019-20] bushfire season,” he added.

BOM meteorologist Keris Arndt said this was only the fourth time a fire warning has been issued for Victoria this fire season, and the first for two or more districts.

“If we do reach that 37 [degrees], that’s the latest in the season we’ve seen temperatures that high since 2007,” he said.

Authorities warned people in Melbourne’s outer suburbs to be vigilant due to the risk of fast-moving grass fires. Heffernan singled out Sunbury as an area he was “particularly concerned about”.

“If that fire does start and you do see that, just simply walk two streets back,” Heffernan said on Friday. “You will be safe if you do walk those two streets back. It will keep the roads free and allow emergency services to get into the scene.”

Experts have warned months of heavy rain due to La Nina earlier this summer increased the fuel load for potential blazes after grasslands dried out.

“This season has the sting in the tail, and [Saturday] is the sting,” Heffernan said.

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