Bushfires persist across Victoria, Australia, as of Jan. 17. Transport and utility disruptions likely. Heed evacuation orders.

Severity: Warning Alert

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Melbourne
  • Geelong
  • Albury

This alert began 16 Jan 2020 13:50 GMT and is scheduled to expire 20 Jan 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Bushfires, fire danger threat
  • Location(s): Victoria, Australia (map)
  • Time Frame: Through at least Jan. 20
  • Impact: Evacuations; road closures; transport, utility, and business disruptions

Summary
As of early Jan. 17, more than 30 bushfires continue to burn across Victoria, Australia, including one at the "Emergency Warning" level and six at the "Watch and Act" alert level. Rainfall is forecast in the area through the course of Jan. 17, which will decrease the threat of fires across the state; however, conditions can change rapidly in the coming days and could cause new increases in the fire threat. A high fire danger warning has been declared for much of Victoria, Jan. 17, which is projected to remain in effect for much of the state through at least Jan. 20. Authorities will likely issue new alerts or update/rescind existing advisories as conditions change over the coming days.

In response to the Emergency Warning near Abbeyard, authorities have asked residents in Nug Nug, Buffalo River, and Merriang South to evacuate. An emergency shelter for displaced residents is located at the Myrtleford Senior Citizens Center.

Authorities have not provided an estimated containment date for the fires; in the event of further hot and dry conditions and strong winds following the forecast rain, such conditions would hamper firefighting efforts and allow for additional fire growth. Fires could lead to further evacuations, closure of secondary and primary roads, and general ground travel and business disruptions. Authorities could expand the mandatory evacuation orders depending on evolving wildfire conditions.

Transport and Utilities
The bushfires have caused some road closures and localized transport disruptions in the affected areas. Authorities have closed major roads, including Princes Highway between Orbost and the New South Wales border. Other secondary roads throughout the state also remain closed due to fires. The status of roads could change over the coming hours and days; authorities could close routes within the bushfire complex and areas under evacuation and emergency warnings due to fire activity and to facilitate the needs of response operations. Low visibility from smoke and possible ashfall could contribute to traffic delays and congestion in the region; flight disruptions are possible at airports in the region, including Melbourne Airport (MEL). Power outages are likely in some areas.

Health
Smoke from fires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees, plants, and possibly building materials. Such smoke can hurt eyes, irritate the respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. Smoke may also worsen symptoms for people who have preexisting respiratory conditions, such as allergies, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Advice
Heed all evacuation orders. Seek updated information on road conditions if driving in the affected area. Individuals not under evacuation warnings should consider remaining inside well-ventilated, air-conditioned spaces to reduce exposure to smoke. Collect essential items - including identification and any important legal and travel documents - in a "go-bag" that can be easily accessed. Charge battery-powered devices in case of prolonged power outages.

Resources
Australian Bureau of Meteorology: www.bom.gov.au
Victoria Fire Authority: www.cfa.vic.gov.au
Vic Emergency: www.emergency.vic.gov.au
VicTraffic: www.traffic.vicroads.vic.gov.au
Melbourne Airport: www.melbourneairport.com.au