Firefighters at Bunyip State Forest are working to bring the blaze under control. Picture: Alex Coppel
Firefighters at Bunyip State Forest are working to bring the blaze under control. Picture: Alex Coppel

‘Like deja vu’: Homes lost in infernos

A wind change has hit Victoria's fire-affected regions, with the cool easterlies slowly heading across the state.

The Bunyip region has already felt the shift, while the winds will arrive in Budgeree, southeast of Bunyip, in the coming hours.

Hot and windy conditions are expected to push firefighters to their limits as they battle to contain scores of blazes across Victoria on Monday.

For the most up-to-date fire information, go to emergency.vic.gov.au

FULL LIST OF SCHOOL CLOSURES

While the slightly cooler conditions are a win for authorities, the dry ground and sunny skies will be challenging.

"There is still little rainfall is forecast until Wednesday, so firefighters still have a difficult challenge ahead of them," a state control centre spokeswoman said.

So far, five structures have been lost across the two major blaze sites, three of those in the Bunyip area.

Bunyip State Park fire: Devastating scenes today as homes were lost. Picture: Nine News Melbourne @9NewsMelb
Bunyip State Park fire: Devastating scenes today as homes were lost. Picture: Nine News Melbourne @9NewsMelb

As of 11pm last night, it was too late to leave for the communities of Bunyip, Bunyip North, Cornucopia, Garfield, Garfield North, Gentle Annie, Iona, Labertouche, Longwarry, Longwarry North, Maryknoll, Nar Nar Goon, Nar Nar Goon North, Tonimbuk, Tynong and Tynong North.

The watch and act zone around that blaze extends from Modella in the south to Icy Creek in the northeast.

Residents have described the raging bushfire as a "dragon in the forest that breathes fire" as some flee and others defend their homes.

Evacuation centres were packed after fire warnings were issued, urging residents in some of the areas to leave as it was too risky to stay and confront the fire front.

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Children, the elderly and pregnant women were among those who hastily packed their bags and fled the flames that continue to wipe out large swathes of land and homes.

Andrew Clarke, owner of Jinks Creek Winery on Tonimbuk Rd, said he and his wife, Abigail, found out they'd lost their property by watching the TV news.

"We've lost our livelihood, we've lost horses, we've lost our whole vineyard, we've lost our whole cellar door," he told the Herald Sun.

"Everything we've worked for our entire life, it's all gone in a couple of hours. I'm too scared to go back to look at it."

A property goes up in flames surrounding Jinks Creek Winery, near Bunyip. Picture: @DougalBeatty/Twitter
A property goes up in flames surrounding Jinks Creek Winery, near Bunyip. Picture: @DougalBeatty/Twitter

Ruth McGowan was preparing to stay and defend her home, between Labertouche and Jindivick, alongside husband Paul.

Ruth McGowan is preparing to stay and defend her home, between Labertouche and Jindivick, alongside husband Paul. Picture: Ruth McGowan
Ruth McGowan is preparing to stay and defend her home, between Labertouche and Jindivick, alongside husband Paul. Picture: Ruth McGowan

Ms McGowan, who served as Baw Baw Shire mayor during the Black Saturday bushfires, said it was like "deja vu" watching firefighting aircraft tackle the blaze from above.

"It's like facing a dragon - a dragon in the forest that breathes fire," she said.

"You've got to be prepared and if you're not, you've got to go. A lot of people have, and that's a good thing. People have learnt from Black Saturday. I'm watching plumes of smoke come up. It's quite eerie."

Herald Sun cartoonist Mark Knight managed to defend his home during Black Saturday, and his house avoided the path of destruction once again, but he and other locals are questioning where the CFA and DSE have been, as no units were seen in the area over the past three days.

"During Black Saturday we were able to fight because we had their help," said Knight, who spoke with admiration of CFA volunteers.

"People down here are angry and believe the CFA have deserted them."

Georgia McCormack and Aaron Williams, who are ­expecting their first child in July, only moved into their home on Tuesday but yesterday evacuated.

"We're unsure, overwhelmed, stressed out and a bit numb," she said.

"Our area is probably not going to make it, others are saying the fire will rip right through it.

"It's not looking good - the sky is just black. It looked like it was snowing pieces of ash."

From left, Gordon Barnett, Georgia McCormack and Aaron Williams. Picture: Tim Carrafa
From left, Gordon Barnett, Georgia McCormack and Aaron Williams. Picture: Tim Carrafa

Authorities are tonight monitoring the pace of the largest of about 30 fires, which have cut power to hundreds of homes destroyed properties, and burned out more than 6000 hectares in the Bunyip State Park, southeast of Melbourne.

Some local schools will be shut on Monday.

V/Line suspended its services between Pakenham and Warragul; buses were being organised from Warragul for today.

Commuters were warned to allow well over 90 minutes for travel if the Princes Highway remained closed.

South of Morwell, a bushfire remains out-of-control near Yinnar South.

Emergency services have told communities southeast of the fire to enact their plan now.

The warning includes Budgeree, Budgeree East, Jeeralang, Jeeralang Junction, Jeeralang North, Jumbuk, Yinnar and Yinnar South.

A relief centre for those affected has been opened at Kernot Hall in Morwell, on Princes Drive.

The warning in Crooked River, southeast of Omeo, was downgraded to a watch and act shortly before 6.30pm and communities have been told to keep a close eye on conditions.

Those affected include Cowa, Crooked River, Gibbs, Hawkhurst, Howittville, Miowera, Shepherdson, Talbotville, Winchester and Wongungarra.

 

Firefighters desperately try to stop the Bunyip state forest bushfire crossing the Princes Freeway. Picture: Stuart McEvoy/The Australian
Firefighters desperately try to stop the Bunyip state forest bushfire crossing the Princes Freeway. Picture: Stuart McEvoy/The Australian

 

EARLIER: Authorities have warned a 9pm wind change tonight could put more Victorian communities in danger as a monster blaze continues to burn out-of-control southeast of Melbourne.

Five structures have been lost and more than 6000 hectares burnt as the inferno continues to head south through Bunyip State Park towards the Princes Highway.

Harrowing footage showing CFA crews battling to save a property has emerged as evacuation alerts remain in place for residents in and around Labertouche North and Tonimbuk.

Emergency Services Commissioner Andrew Crisp said a wind change was making its way across the state and was set to present new challenges for fire crews.

"It is a dangerous time, putting it bluntly," he said at a midday press conference.

"Not just for communities, but for firefighters, and we're very conscious of the safety of our firefighters and we will message in relation to that.

Others in areas including Bunyip, Cornucopia, Garfield, Gentle Annie, Longwarry, Maryknoll, Nar Nar Goon, Tonimbuk and Tynong were told it was too late to leave and take shelter immediately around 4pm.

"This is an active fire, it is moving, and there is every likelihood there will be further property losses," Mr Crisp said.

There are more than 30 other fires still burning across Victoria. The hot and windy conditions are expected to linger until Wednesday.

More than 800 firefighters are on the fire ground with 10 aircraft and 100 tankers.

 

This Tonimbuk property explodes into a massive fireball. Picture: @DougalBeatty/Twitter
This Tonimbuk property explodes into a massive fireball. Picture: @DougalBeatty/Twitter

 

Country Fire Authority assistant chief officer Trevor Owen said more lightning was also expected at the Bunyip fire on Sunday afternoon.

He said if people chose to stay and defend, they needed to be well prepared. "Do not put your own life in danger and that of your family unless you are well prepared, adhere to the messages and advice," Mr Owen said.

Two homes were also lost in the Budgeree-Wilsons Promontory fires, incident controller for those blazes, Peter West, told the ABC.

"Unfortunately we've had confirmed two house losses with the fire and some unconfirmed reports about other assets," Mr West said.

Campers and day trippers had to be evacuated from Wilsons Promontory. There are also watch and act alerts out for fires at Dargo and Licola in Gippsland.

The Licola fire also started by lightning but the fire is currently travelling away from the township, Mr Crisp said.

 

Another home destroyed in the Bunyip blaze. Picture: @DougalBeatty/Twitter
Another home destroyed in the Bunyip blaze. Picture: @DougalBeatty/Twitter

 

 

 

 

 

VIDEO: 'THE WHOLE HOUSE IS SURROUNDED'

Footage shot by a CFA volunteer Lucie Gallagher last night showed fire surrounding

a property near Cornucopia.

"As you can see we are protecting a house at the moment," Ms Gallagher said.

"We've run out of water, we can't get out, so we just have a tanker near us at the moment.

"The whole house and property is surrounded.

"It looks like a lot of us are just stuck here at the moment with a water tanker coming … we just have to hold on tight and hopefully we can save this house."

The mother-of-one who has volunteered for more than 13 years said the crews had been surrounded by a wall of flames in the moments before she filmed the scene.

"Conditions changed so quickly. The last time I experienced anything like that it was Black Saturday," she said.

 

 

 

There are 850 emergency personnel with 110 appliances and multiple aircraft, fighting the fire which started on Friday afternoon as several different fires which then joined.

Residents are being told to shelter indoors as it is too late to leave.

Water bombing aircraft operated overnight and fire crews are now assessing the situation.

There are 25 fires still burning out of control across Victoria.

An emergency warning remains in place for a fire at Budgeree in the Latrobe Valley which has burnt about 687 hectares.

Hot temperatures are expected again across the state today, with the ban in place until midnight.

The fire danger rating is severe for the central district and very high for the rest of the state.

"This means that if we have fires in the landscape, they could challenge firefighters," the Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Tom Delamotte said.

"This is the hottest start to autumn in 30 years, following the hottest summer on record," he said.

 

 

Amber Pantano took this photo at Maryknoll, near bunyip State Park on Saturday afternoon. Picture: Facebook
Amber Pantano took this photo at Maryknoll, near bunyip State Park on Saturday afternoon. Picture: Facebook

 

LABERTOUCHE: 'IT CAN'T HAPPEN AGAIN'

Kelpie puppy Jimmy alerted owners Margaret and Richard Pointing as the fire approached their 50-acre Labertouche property, forcing them to flee to the Drouin relief centre about 6am Sunday.

"He started barking about 2am and wouldn't stop," Ms Pointing said.

"He could see the flames and alerted us.

"We had a few things packed, we packed a few more and left."

The couple took with them photos of their parents and a teddy Mr Pointing was given by his aunt as a child.

Other possessions packed a blue horse float, which was used to ferry a dog, two cats and a cockatoo to safety during the Black Saturday fires.

They lost fences, a machinery shed, about 80 bales of hay and horse shelters during that blaze.

Ms Pointing said it was "devastating" to evacuate again.

"We kept saying it can't happen again," she said.

"It feels exactly the same, although the adrenaline kicked in earlier and the information is a lot better."

In nearby Jindivick, The Jindi Caf, has cooked extra roasts today in case exhausted firefighters needed to eat, rest and recharge.

The cafe also served as a pit stop for locals picking up a few groceries as they prepared for the wind change.

They cancelled their staffs' shifts but owner Susan Goodwin said the cafe would remain open as long as possible.

"I rang them (staff) and said 'forget it'," she said.

"I said, 'stay at home with your families'.

"We will stay open as long as we aren't under threat, as long as it's not dangerous, to at least to make sandwiches and have cold drinks.

"We also did extra roasts today so that if the guys come here, we can feed them.

"That's what a community does, the community rallies together."

TONIMBUK: 'THE FIRE IS A BIG ONE'

Yesterday, Sunday Herald Sun cartoonist Mark Knight and his family were among families forced to flee homes at Tonimbuk.

Knight said he had prepared to defend his house by activating pumps and sprinklers.

"The fire is a big one," he said. "We're in Mother Nature's hands now."

A motorcycle helmet used by veteran actor Paul Cronin in a 1970s TV show was saved from a Tonimbuk home as his daughter, Jules, scrambled to rescue items.

Cronin used the helmet in popular TV series Matlock Police, a show he starred in before becoming more widely known in The Sullivans.

Ms Cronin said a police officer on duty at the fires saw the helmet in the back of her car.

"And I said, 'No, no, I'm not impersonating a policeman, that's my father's helmet'," she told the Sunday Herald Sun.

"And he said, 'who's your father', and I told him and he goes, 'Oh my God, I got into the police force because of him'."

 

The fire near Gembrook. Picture: Niklas Passmann
The fire near Gembrook. Picture: Niklas Passmann

EARLIER: Chris Eagle from Forest Fire Management Victoria said the Bunyip fire was developing "quite quickly."

"We're expecting the fire to continue to grow and develop in a southerly direction until the wind change comes in this afternoon," he said.

"We do encourage communities to enact fire plans and leave early.

"The prediction at the moment is a gusty, erratic change into the early evening.

"We'll continue to work during the day on the eastern flank to try and limit the spread of the fire as much as we can."

Two homes were also lost in the Budgeree-Wilsons Promontory fires, incident controller for those blazes, Peter West, told the ABC.

"Unfortunately we've had confirmed two house losses with the fire and some unconfirmed reports about other assets," Mr West said.

Campers and day trippers had to be evacuated from Wilsons Promontory.

There are also watch and act alerts out for fires at Dargo and Licola in Gippsland.

The Licola fire also started by lightning but the fire is currently travelling away from the township, Mr Crisp said.

Resident Georgia McCormack, 23, evacuated her Longwarry North property yesterday with her partner.

"It's crazy, there's a lot of uncertainty at the moment," she said.

"We're unsure, overwhelmed, stressed out and a bit numb.

"Our area is probably not going to make it, others are saying the fire will rip right through it.

"It's a sticky situation."

Premier Andrews urged Victorians to "be of assistance" to emergency services and listen to warnings.

"Don't put yourself in harms way," Premier Andrews said.

"It's a very challenging day - please be smart about being hydrated and stay out of the heat."

Herald Sun cartoonist took this photo from Tonimbuk on Sunday. Picture: Mark Knight
Herald Sun cartoonist took this photo from Tonimbuk on Sunday. Picture: Mark Knight

 

Cattle seek shelter from the blaze. Picture: Ionee Reid
Cattle seek shelter from the blaze. Picture: Ionee Reid

 

Panicked horses in a field in Bunyip State Park. Picture: Alex Coppel
Panicked horses in a field in Bunyip State Park. Picture: Alex Coppel

 

Firefighters on the ground in Tynong North. Picture: Alex Coppel
Firefighters on the ground in Tynong North. Picture: Alex Coppel

 

The bushfire rages in Bunyip State Park. Picture: Alex Coppel
The bushfire rages in Bunyip State Park. Picture: Alex Coppel

 

CFA members watch a fire in Tynong North in Bunyip State Park. Picture: Alex Coppel
CFA members watch a fire in Tynong North in Bunyip State Park. Picture: Alex Coppel

 

A helicopter douses the flames in Bunyip State Park. Picture: Alex Coppel
A helicopter douses the flames in Bunyip State Park. Picture: Alex Coppel

 

CFA members at Tynong North in Bunyip State Park. Picture: Alex Coppel
CFA members at Tynong North in Bunyip State Park. Picture: Alex Coppel

 

CFA members discuss their fire plan in Bunyip State Park. Picture: Alex Coppel
CFA members discuss their fire plan in Bunyip State Park. Picture: Alex Coppel

 

A CFA helicopter responds in Bunyip State Park. Picture: Alex Coppel
A CFA helicopter responds in Bunyip State Park. Picture: Alex Coppel

 

A farmer puts out a fire on his property. Picture: Alex Coppel
A farmer puts out a fire on his property. Picture: Alex Coppel

 

Firefighters on the scene in Bunyip State Park CFA near Tynong North. Picture: Alex Coppel
Firefighters on the scene in Bunyip State Park CFA near Tynong North. Picture: Alex Coppel

 

Two fires have merged into one at Bunyip State Forest. Picture: Garfield Hilltop Cafe/Facebook
Two fires have merged into one at Bunyip State Forest. Picture: Garfield Hilltop Cafe/Facebook

 

 

 

 

Properties near the Bunyip State Park bushfire. Picture: ABC Gippsland/Facebook
Properties near the Bunyip State Park bushfire. Picture: ABC Gippsland/Facebook

 

 

 

Smoke billows into the sky above Bunyip State Park. Picture: CFA
Smoke billows into the sky above Bunyip State Park. Picture: CFA

 

The Princes Freeway between Nar Nar Goon and Drouin has been closed as a fire burns out of control in Bunyip State Park.
The Princes Freeway between Nar Nar Goon and Drouin has been closed as a fire burns out of control in Bunyip State Park.

 

An amnious cloud can be seen looking east from Pakenham Picture: AAP Image/Hilton Stone
An amnious cloud can be seen looking east from Pakenham Picture: AAP Image/Hilton Stone

 

 

The fire is threatening homes and lives. Picture: Lawrence Pinder
The fire is threatening homes and lives. Picture: Lawrence Pinder

 

 

There are multiple bushfires in and around the Bunyip State Park that are out of control. The blaze from Mintern Rd. Picture: Lawrence Pinder
There are multiple bushfires in and around the Bunyip State Park that are out of control. The blaze from Mintern Rd. Picture: Lawrence Pinder

 

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Ruth McGowan is preparing to stay and defend her home, between Labertouche and Jindivick, alongside husband Paul. Picture: Ruth McGowan
Ruth McGowan is preparing to stay and defend her home, between Labertouche and Jindivick, alongside husband Paul. Picture: Ruth McGowan
Skies over the Drouin relief centre. Picture: Tim Carrafa
Skies over the Drouin relief centre. Picture: Tim Carrafa
Haze blankets the area in the Bunyip blaze. Picture: @DougalBeatty/Twitter
Haze blankets the area in the Bunyip blaze. Picture: @DougalBeatty/Twitter
Another home lost to Bunyip bushfire. Picture: Twitter/@9NewsMelb
Another home lost to Bunyip bushfire. Picture: Twitter/@9NewsMelb
The devastating remains after the Bunyuip blaze ripped through a property. Picture: @DougalBeatty/Twitter
The devastating remains after the Bunyuip blaze ripped through a property. Picture: @DougalBeatty/Twitter
Tynong resident Vanessa with her horses Duck and Fuzzy. She'd walked them 10km by foot by the time Rachel saw her. The road closures meant she couldn't drive in or out. Picture: Rachel Lorna
Tynong resident Vanessa with her horses Duck and Fuzzy. She'd walked them 10km by foot by the time Rachel saw her. The road closures meant she couldn't drive in or out. Picture: Rachel Lorna
The Bunyip fire from a Qantas plane. Picture: myjetgurul/Facebook
The Bunyip fire from a Qantas plane. Picture: myjetgurul/Facebook
A fire truck against a backdrop of billowing smoke. Picture: Alex Coppel
A fire truck against a backdrop of billowing smoke. Picture: Alex Coppel
Bushfire looms over a property in Tynong North. Picture: Alex Coppel
Bushfire looms over a property in Tynong North. Picture: Alex Coppel
A helciopter flies through the haze from the bushfire in Tynong North. Picture: Alex Coppel
A helciopter flies through the haze from the bushfire in Tynong North. Picture: Alex Coppel
CFA members battle the bushfire in Bunyip State Park. Picture: Alex Coppel
CFA members battle the bushfire in Bunyip State Park. Picture: Alex Coppel
Jules Cronin  and a policeman with the helmet used by her actor dad Paul Cronin in the 1970s TV show Matlock Police.
Jules Cronin and a policeman with the helmet used by her actor dad Paul Cronin in the 1970s TV show Matlock Police.
A fire burns near Tynong North, where residents were warned it is too late to leave. Picture: Stephanie Bastiaan/Twitter
A fire burns near Tynong North, where residents were warned it is too late to leave. Picture: Stephanie Bastiaan/Twitter