At least five children were rescued from hot cars today as Victoria sweltered.
The mercury hit 42.6C in Melbourne — the city’s hottest day in more than five years — and more than 46C elsewhere.
Emergency services had to respond to reports of youngsters locked in cars, and the temperatures they endured as a result of thoughtless parents were up to 20C hotter than outside the vehicles.
A child was reported locked in a car in Wodonga where the outside temperature was 40C.
The state government has slammed the negligent practice, warning parents could face jail time and/or big fines.
Acting Health Minister Martin Foley said the parents were risking a “fatal outcome”.
“Just don’t do it, even for a moment — the consequences can be tragic,” Mr Foley said.
“Kids can become extremely sick and die. It’s not on, it’s not worth it and it’s never OK.”
Adults who leave children unattended face up to six months in jail.
“(Parents) risk significant financial penalties, but more importantly, they risk a devastating fatal outcome,” he said.
Two primary school-aged boys were rescued from a car in a shopping centre carpark in Baxter on the Mornington Peninsula shortly after 10am.
A witness said the two children were left in the car for more than 15 minutes as their father did his supermarket shopping.
The woman, who called triple-0, claimed the boys would not get out of the car because they were told to stay put by their parents.
The outside temperature in Baxter at the time was above 32C.
The temperature inside a vehicle can more than double within minutes in the heat, meaning anyone left inside can quickly experience extreme temperatures.
Paramedics were also called to two separate incidents in Wodonga. The first report came just before 10am where a young girl was found locked in a car. She was rescued by paramedics but did not require treatment.
Less than two hours later, emergency services were called to another child locked in a car 4km away. At the time, it was almost 40C outside.
Children’s body temperatures rise up to five times faster than an adult’s, and are at greater risk of life-threatening heatstroke, dehydration and organ damage when left in a car.
Ambulance Victoria health commander Justin Dunlop said it was “extremely lucky” no children were seriously injured, but the number of call-outs was “unacceptable”.
In the state’s north, Swan Hill and Mildura recorded temperatures above 46C.
Walpeup, in the state’s northwest, hit 46.6C — its hottest January day in more than 50 years.
Melbourne reached 42.6C at 3.41pm but the cool change hit within 20 minutes and thermometers plunged 10C quickly.
Wind of up to 100kmh sent beachgoers racing indoors as the cold front moved in from the southwest coast. In Geelong, the temperature fell from 44C to 31C in just 15 minutes.
By 5.30pm, the mercury had dropped to 22C in Melbourne. The city will reach just 21C on Saturday and 23C on Sunday.
Richard Russell from the weather bureau said the “astounding” weather pattern was likely to recur before the summer was over.
Emergency services were kept busy throughout the day.
Paramedics attending to a man who became unwell at the Fitzroy pool forced the evacuation of dozens of swimmers.
A man swept off a catamaran near McCrae beach was rescued unharmed.