Almighty roars, exploding trees: Fire chaos hits residents
East Gippsland residents have shared their harrowing experiences as out-of-control bushfires rage through the area, forcing many to evacuate their homes.
Temperatures in Mallacoota have rocketed to a scorching 49C at 8am this morning as bushfires bear down on the East Gippsland town.
Data from the Bureau of Meteorology shows the volatile conditions in the state's East, with the mercury surging to 37.4C at 3.40pm before tampering off last night.
It began to climb again this morning, hitting 36.8C at 7.56am and 49C four minutes later.
Two hours later at 10am, temperatures had dropped to 20.9C.
MALLACOOTA WHARF WELL PROTECTED
Daniel Hoskin's dad, Peter, is at the wharf with many other locals.
He is sending updates to family when possible.
"I think they've got the wharf area well protected," Daniel said.
"(It's) just tough with the smoke and hopefully there's no shortage of food and water for everyone.
"Dad said he hadn't eaten since breakfast yesterday and only had some cereal to eat."
Mallacoota and Corryong under immediate threat of fire, Victoria's Emergency Services Commissioner Andrew Crisp says. It's a "dynamic and dangerous situation". 20 fires statewide#vicfires @theheraldsun @akfrost @briannatravers #Mallacoota— Ian Royall 🏍 (@IanRoyall) December 31, 2019
Daniel said his dad had only moved to the area this year.
"His place is on Terra Nova Drive at the south end of town near Bastion Point," he said.
"He's not sure about the house, hard to say at this stage.
"He originally was going to drive along the beach from Bastion and stay on the beach where the inlet usually runs out.
"But (he) decided to go to the wharf where most others were."
Orbost resident Susan Ross went to bed about 10.30pm but was woken by a "God almighty roar" after midnight.
She and some family evacuated to the town's cricket club, where they remained until the wind changed about 4am.
"I laid down on my bed last night and had my windows open," she told the Herald Sun.
"I heard this God almighty roar ... I had a look out my window and all I could see was this bright red sky.
"It was so close."
This was mum’s place in Orbost at 5.30 this afternoon. It looks like night. It went from being well away from the fire and advice level, to emergency warning at 6pm. Terrifying. #vicfires #eastgippsland pic.twitter.com/s74Y6knD1f— Katie Hale (@katie18O) December 30, 2019
Mrs Ross, who has since returned home, said conditions in Orbost were "black", hazy and "dark" this morning.
"I don't know of anything that has been lost in Orbost," she said.
"Quite a few people live out of town so you don't know if there house is still standing."
Mathew Ross is this morning defending his neighbour's property as fire bears down on Wingan River.
Video shot about 8am shows flames on either side of Upper Wingan River Road, with trees and paddocks in the area alight.
He told the Herald Sun that the fire was "coming up the valley" and that a spot fire was near his shed.
"We are doing alright," he said.
"It's coming up the valley ... it's at my other neighbours place now."
Catherine Murphy and Nathan Fowler, both 33 years old, lost their Sarsfield home in the bushfire.
"I don't think it's quite sunk in yet," Mr Fowler said.
"We'll just keep persevering and keep going.
"We made the right call by leaving, you just never know."
EAST GIPPSLAND: Bushfires have torn through the town of Sarsfield overnight. At least 12 homes have been gutted by the fires. The local community are devastated. @theheraldsun pic.twitter.com/FnDzxfnStm— Brianna Travers (@briannatravers) December 31, 2019
Mr Fowler works in construction and is hoping to call in favours from friends to rebuild his home.
The pair came back to what remains of their home this morning about 9am.
Ms Murphy, a schoolteacher, said they had less than an hour's sleep last night.
"It is a bit confronting," she said.
"We were warned, we are just glad we got out and we got the animals out.
"They did a really good job of telling everyone, without that we would have been stuffed.
"Somehow the shed survived, it's full of hay
We're definitely in the pocket worst hit by the fire.
"It is what it is.
"You just hope your insurance will be nice and fair, that is our main concern now."
TREES WERE EXPLODING
The Sarsfield bushfire came a frightening 800m from Corey Kennedy's home.
His wife and children evacuated last night but he stayed as long as he could to protect his home.
"It was hectic, I was on my own," Mr Kennedy said.
"The trees were exploding. We could hear gas bottles exploding, there was lots of explosions.
"I was pretty upset when I decided to leave about 11.30pm when the wind change hit.
"I made a beeline and thought whatever happens, happens.
"A lot more people evacuated, more than I expected. It is just crazy.
"It's going to be sad when everyone comes back."
DARK AND GLOOMY
The Dubberley family, including dad Kelly, mum Stacey and sons, Tyrone, 14 and Nathan, 11, fled to Mallacoota beach about 4pm yesterday.
They slept overnight alongside their kelpie, Brownie, and pugs, Rocky and Molly.
Mr Dubberley said he could see about 50 people and 20 boats scattered along the beach, and that "we can now see flames on the hills".
"It's dark and gloomy with burning embers seen out here in the past hour," he said.
"There is a 9mth old baby with the family beside us."
Mr Dubberley said many people who evacuated to the beach during yesterday's extreme heat had now been caught out by the cool change.
"It was stinking hot and now it's bloody cold," he said.
"That has caught a lot of people out by not having the right clothing.
"We come out in our little boat ... luckily for us we have a big swag so we are out of the weather slightly."
SITTING IN DARKNESS
Luke McCrone is right now bunking down at a hall in the middle of Mallacoota.
Hundreds of locals are sitting in darkness, awaiting direction as fires threaten to sweep through the town.
"It's pretty full on here, this is the hall (pictured)," he told the Herald Sun.
"It's dark, like night.
"The car park at the wharf is full of cars, mainly tourists.
"Embers are falling in town now, although few and far between.
"The hall is packed, it's sweltering.
"Cfa went up our street and told us all to get out.
"You can hear the roar of the fire although it's not as loud in town as it was at the house."
Photos emerging from Mallacoota this morning show dozens of cars, caravans and tents near the town's wharf.
Jonty Smith told the Herald Sun that those gathered there were remaining calm.
"It's quite scary," he said.
"It's very dark, like it's the middle of the night.
"(We're) not in the water yet. Just at the main wharf so far.
"People are staying pretty calm now. No real sense of panic."
BLACK SATURDAY-LIKE CONDITIONS
Rhys Smith, from the Latrobe Valley, said looking out at the fires from Lakes Entrance was "eerie."
"Just the colours of the sky - it was amazing colours," Mr Smith said.
"It looked pretty eerie.
"We went for a drive down to Bullock Island; it was incredible to see how many people were camped down there. They had swags next to the beach, down the esplanade, on the water's edge - caravans, campervans.
"We had a plan if anything was to happen to just head to the water."
Mr Smith, his wife, 16-year-old son and extended family have been going camping in the holiday town for more than eight years and decided to stay put.
Mr Smith said he "hadn't experienced" such conditions since Black Saturday.
"We had ash rain come through about 4pm on Monday - white cars," he said.
"I'm guessing the wind was up to 80km/h.
"It made everything very messy. I haven't experienced that since Black Saturday.
"It's quite eerie when you look at it."