Fires still burning across Victoria as smoke haze returns to Melbourne

There is a bushfire on the north west side of Mt Buffalo that is threatening the Buffalo River Valley. The fire is not yet under control. Courtesy: VicEmergency

Authorities have downgraded emergency warnings in Victoria’s alpine region despite difficult fire conditions overnight.

There are more than a dozen blazes still raging in Victoria this morning, predominantly in the East Gippsland and the northeastern alpine regions.

Most are burning at watch and act level or lower, but emergency warnings were issued for fires near Mount Buffalo in Victoria’s alpine region, and briefly for Bulart, in the state’s southwest yesterday.

Both were downgraded to a watch and act alert early this morning.

Authorities said firefighters were able to slow the spread of the blaze near Mount Buffalo but conditions could change at any time.

“If you don’t feel safe, don’t wait, leaving now is the safest option – conditions may change and get worse very quickly,” the new warning reads.

“Emergency services may not be able to help you if you decide to stay.”

The fires have brought smoke over Melbourne once again, with organisers and players are hoping the haze will clear up before the first round of the Australian Open on Monday.

People living in Buffalo Creek, Merriang, and Merriang South were told strong and erratic winds had significantly increased fire activity near them, and it was recommended they evacuate.

The warning came as a registration service was established for people who fled Mallacoota, Genoa and Gipsy Point and want to return now conditions have improved.

When it is safe to do so, emergency services and the Australian Defence Force will begin flights or escorted road transport into Mallacoota and surrounds, Victoria Police have confirmed.

Incident management specialists from the US and Canada will arrive at Melbourne Airport this morning, ahead of being deployed to fires in the northeast and East Gippsland.

Also arriving from the US was the first of four large air tankers, which are set to be positioned strategically around the country over the next 50 days.

“These aircraft have the capability to deploy across Australia, providing infrastructure protection and laying retardant lines to limit the spread of the fires. They are a truly national capability,” Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council CEO Stuart Ellis said in a statement.

A contingent from the Fiji Military Force will also arrive in Melbourne this afternoon to start induction training before being deployed to East Gippsland, where a group from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force is already at work.

The arriving 54 personnel will be welcomed by the local Fijian community.

So far the blazes have burnt through more than 1.5 million hectares, 387 residential homes and 602 non-residential buildings.

Five men have also died during the fires.