Five kids trapped in hot cars, as temp soars
AT LEAST five children have been rescued from hot cars today as temperatures continues to soar.
Melbourne has hit 42C this afternoon but there's more heat to come before relief when a cold front sweeps across the state this afternoon.
As of 3pm, Melbourne's temeprature was hovering at 41.8C, Avalon at 35.5C and Mildura at 45.2C.
But a cool change is already sweeping across southern coastal areas, with Aireys Inlet dropping 10C in 15 minutes at 2.18pm.
In Gippsland, a Watch and Act warning has been issued for towns due to an out-of-control fire.
Residents in Darriman, Giffard West, Gormandale, Stradbroke, Stradbroke West, Willung, Willung South have been put on alert as firefighters work to control the blaze about 6.3km south of Rosedale.
The fire is travelling in a south-easterly direction towards Stradbroke West.
VicEmergency said: "Firefighters have been unable to stop the spread of the fire. Staying close to a building you can shelter in is the safest option as conditions can change suddenly."
More than 20 firetrucks are on scene.
In Melbourne, paramedics responded to reports of a child was locked in a car in Cranbourne at 2pm, it is not known yet whether the child has been freed.
Shortly before midday - with the mercury already reaching 40C - a child was reported trapped in a car in Ferntree Gully. The child has since been freed.
Paramedics were also called to Baxter just after 10am when a concerned bystander saw two primary school aged children were locked in a car.
By 10am the mercury had already hit 34C.
The children were released from the car before emergency services arrived but is understood they were in the car for up to 15 minutes.
And about 9am this morning, paramedics and CFA were called to a toddler locked in a car in Dandenong.
The two-year-old was freed uninjured.
The temperature is still set to rise further ahead of a cool change before 4pm, when the mercury will rapidly plunge around 15C in Melbourne.
Despite warnings of today's extreme heat and fire ban, the CFA says they're disappointed they've been called to put out campfires, one in Gippsland and another in Lorne.
Police will be investigating due to the total fire ban.
Meanwhile a bushfire near Mt Ellery in Gippsland continues to burn, but it's not a threat to local properties. An advice message is current for nearby residents to monitor conditions.
The hot weather and strong winds also whipped up high levels of dust this morning, prompting a warning for people with health conditions like asthma.
Areas known for dust issues, such as Brooklyn and South Geelong, were likely to have poor air quality, EPA air quality scientist Gavin Fisher said.
It comes as Victoria is set to face its hottest day in almost three years, with firefighters bracing for out-of-control and unpredictable fires across the state.
The mercury will peak at 42C in the city, with some parts of the state soaring to 46C before temperatures plummet 20C in less than an hour this evening.
The Wimmera and Mallee regions have been deemed extreme fire dangers, meaning if a fire takes hold, it will be "uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast moving".
The South West, Central, North Central and Northern Country districts have been rated at severe fire danger.
A total fire ban has been issued for the entire state - the first this summer - and a health alert is in place for many parts of the state.
A cool change in the afternoon will bring gusts of up to 100kmh and the chance of lightning - all recipes for potentially devastating fire conditions, authorities say.
To help minimise the adverse effects of airborne dust, the EPA has advised people to:
- Avoid outdoor activity
- Avoid vigorous exercise, especially if you have asthma or a breathing-related conditions
- Stay indoors and close windows and doors
Chief Officer Steve Warrington said fire crews were "prepped and ready to go" ahead of the "spike day".
"(It) has all the ingredients to make fires difficult to control," he said.
"Wind changes can be absolutely destructive when it comes to fanning fires."
Firefighters will tackle blazes from ground and air with 50 aircraft on standby - more than anywhere in the country.
Air tankers in NSW have been brought closer to the border in preparation for the extreme heat.
Fire crews have battled more than 700 grass and shrub fires since the start of summer, and responded to dozens of blazes sparked by campfires and lightning this week.
It comes as police arrested a 30-year-old man after a series of fires in the Nowa Nowa area. Police and CFA attended six small fires, believed to have been deliberately lit on Wednesday.
No one was injured and the man, of no fixed address, was being interviewed on Thursday night.
Emergency Services Commissioner Andrew Crisp said Victoria was getting to the serious end of summer in terms of fire danger.
"People should have their fire plans ready to go by now and they need to be prepared to enact it," Mr Crisp said. "If you're seeing smoke and flames, it's too late."
All holiday-makers around the state, including in popular tourist hot spots on the Surf Coast, were urged to stay connected and resist going "off grid" during extreme weather.
Additional lifeguards will patrol beaches, with thousands of people expected to flock to beaches and waterways.
People are urged to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day and check on vulnerable family members and neighbours - especially over-65s and infants.
Parents were also warned to never leave children or pets in hot cars - fatal conditions can be reached in as little as 10 minutes.
Temperatures are expected to drop drastically from about 4pm, plummeting from 40C to 20C in less than an hour.
Victorians were strongly encouraged to develop and review fire plans, download the VicEmergency App, reconsider unnecessary travel and stay informed through local and state media.
The Country Fire Authority has declared it is "absolutely prepared" for the fire season, despite a decline in volunteers.
As temperatures are set to reach a three-year high, firefighters are bracing for extreme fire danger across the state.
Figures from the CFA's annual report, released last month, show in 2017-18, it had the least number of operational volunteers for the past decade.
The state dropped more than 600 boots-on-the-ground volunteers, to 34,586, in the past financial year alone.
CFA Chief Officer Steve Warrington said there had been no impact on capability or service delivery over the past few years.
He said volunteer numbers fluctuated and, for several years, between 18,000 and 19,000 operational volunteers had turned out to incidents annually. "We are absolutely prepared for this fire season and have the numbers of volunteers and career staff we need," he said.
"CFA has observed no impact to capability or service delivery over the past several years, despite a steady increase in non-fire-related emergency responses. Indeed, in high-density areas, such as the metropolitan fringe, there is an oversupply of volunteer applicants with many brigades having waiting lists."
One CFA captain told the Herald Sun brigades struggled to recruit, and the fall in numbers was due to ageing volunteers and busier lifestyles.
"People are working harder at their jobs and therefore have less time to volunteer," he said.
"We have to really push to get recruits these days."
Another volunteer with almost 50 years' experience said there was "no doubt at all" firefighters were concerned about declining numbers.
He said volunteer numbers on Melbourne's fringes were dwindling after the government's bid to split the fire services into volunteer and career-only brigades.
"It affects the morale of the brigades," he said.
Emergency Volunteer Awareness Campaign director Garth Head said urban volunteers were crucial to helping protect all areas of the state.
SCORCHING HEAT TO SLOW TRAINS, STOP SOME TRAMS
Trains will be slowed and tram services cancelled as Melbourne's public transport slogs through blistering heat.
But Victoria's public transport chief Jeroen Weimar on Thursday assured commuters that the system would not meltdown as the mercury tops 40C.
Mr Weimar said that reducing services and speed would ensure trains and trams remained running.
"A lot of work has been done by the operators - by Metro, Yarra Trams and V/Line - to prepare for the hot weather," he said.
"Most of that is behind the scenes with the operation of the trains and the infrastructure.
"When the temperature does get above 40C, we will see that we have to reduce the speed of our trains and trams because of the effect on the rails.
"We are confident that we have a good hot weather plan in place for Metro for continue to run their services."
Trams on route 30 will be cancelled from 10am, with route 12 diverted via La Trobe St.
Route 82 will be replaced by buses, while route 75 trams will run from Etihad Stadium to Camberwell Depot.
Buses will then run for the remainder of the journey to Vermont South until 10pm.
Metro Trains will monitor weather conditions throughout the day and, if needed, roll out speed restrictions on individual lines.
But all regional trains will be slowed to 90km/h with blanket restrictions across the V/Line network.
The extreme heat timetable will add 10-20 minutes to journeys between noon to 8pm.
It comes as Public Transport Victoria revealed massive taxpayer-funded bonuses for Metro Trains and Yarra Trams, despite failing a series of punctuality targets.
Metro reached its 92 per cent punctuality target in six of the 12 months from November 2017 to November 2018.
It was hit with penalties totalling $750,000 but pocketed $6 million in bonuses.
Yarra Trams missed its target - 82 per cent punctuality - five times over the same year.
It was slapped with penalties totalling about $300,000 but was rewarded with more than $1 million.
PET OWNERS URGED TO PREPARE FOR EXTREME HEAT
Veterinarians and fire authorities have urged pet owners to plan for their furry friends this summer.
Preparing for extreme heat, knowing the signs of dehydration and making plans to evacuate are the keys to keeping your canine companions safe over the warmer months.
Lort Smith Animal Hospital sees a spike in dogs coming in for heat-related health problems as the mercury creeps up each year.
"It can happen very quickly and tragedies can occur if the dog is home alone and it doesn't have access to cool water or shade," Lort Smith's Dr David Cunliffe said.
"Every year we are made aware of cases of dogs being left in cars.
"It can take only a few minutes for a dog to become fatally unwell."
Owners should look for excessive panting, decreased activity and very red and dry tongues and gums.
The veterinarian advised owners to take steps to make their pet more comfortable if it looked unwell and to visit the vet if they were in doubt.
"Cool your dog with wet towels and running water," he said,
"Bring them inside if you have airconditioning.
"It's temping to try and force feed your dog water but that's not a good idea if they are panting because they could breathe in the water and choke on it."
Older dogs, overweight dogs and dogs with short muzzles like pugs were most at risk.
CFA Chief Officer Steve Warrington said everyone in areas vulnerable to fires should be planning for their pets.
"Whether it's a large dog or a small rabbit there must be consideration on how you will look after their welfare," he said.
"Prepare a list of things they'll need so on those high risk days, when fire comes you are ready - this includes plenty of water.
"If you know you're going to struggle to get your pets out in a rush, move them somewhere safe on a high risk day, it might be a kennel, a friends place or a community location."