The bushfire in the Mount Hotham region is one of five 'live' blazes in Australia's Victoria state, 5 February 2013. Photo: Robert Plumtree / Sydney Morning Herald

By Peter Hannam, Carbon economy editor
5 February 2013

Victoria faces days of heightened fire risk with the return of hot weather and little sign of rainfall relief for much of the state.

Fire resources have been mobilised to fight five continuing fires in expectation of warmer conditions lasting until Sunday.

A “severe fire danger” rating has been forecast for the south west and north central districts and a “very high” rating for the rest of the state, Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said.

“The lack of rain has completely dried most areas of grassland and bush across Victoria,” he said.

"This combined with heavy fuel-loads caused by rains and flooding across the state over the past couple of years means we are faced with a serious fire risk."

On Tuesday, the Bureau of Meteorology updated its drought statement to expand the area declared to be suffering severe rainfall deficiency over the past six months to include parts of the Mallee, Wimmera and the Riverina region of southern NSW. (See map here.)

“The simplest message is that east of the Divide, too much water; west of it, not enough,” Karl Braganza, the bureau's head of climate monitoring, said. “The fuel is very dry out there and we've got another month or so of summer to go.”

Sites recording record low rainfall over the past four months range from Mildura and Hamilton in the west to Epping and Strath Creek in the state's centre and Charlotte Pass in the Snowy Mountains.

Temperatures are expected to reach the high 30s in much of northern Victoria on Wednesday. Melbourne is forecast to reach 35 degrees and clock daily maximums of 30 or above until Sunday. [more]

Victoria braces for days of high fire risk

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