Farmers prepare for the worst as mega-fire approaches
FARMERS in Victoria's northeast are preparing for the worst as local bushfires are expected to join NSW blazes to form a mega-fire on Friday.
As the clean-up begins on properties that have been ravaged by fire in the last week, other residents have been forced to enact fire plans as the bushfire near Corryong continues to burn out of control towards them.
Father of three Dan Campbell has been on edge for more than a week, evacuating his young family at the weekend when fires threatened their 90-acre Tallangatta Valley dairy farm.
They have since returned, but authorities have now put them on alert again ahead of the dangerous weather conditions forecast tomorrow and Friday.
"We've been very lucky so far," Mr Campbell said.
Mr Campbell, 32, is one of about 100 local residents who gathered in Tallangata Valley Hall for a community meeting this morning.
They are not directly in the firing line, but fear a storm expected tomorrow evening could bring a lightning strike that would spark new fires.
"The way the winds blowing and where the fire is heading, our biggest concern is passed," he said. "There's still the risk of lightning strikes."
He has cleared paddocks at the farm to move his stock in the event of a fire.
Towong Shire Mayor David Wortmann told the community meeting of the devastating scenes he had witnessed in Walwa, which still has no power, water or radio access.
"It's awful, I can tell you," Mr Wortmann said.
He warned the residents to prepare, and said the council was offering free rubbish drop-offs at the local tip.
"If you plan to stay you must have a very good plan," he said.
"I can't stress to you how fast the fire moves."
It comes as Corryong residents were able to return home for the first time today after two fires attacked the area, one on New Year's Eve and another on Saturday, forcing major evacuations and road closures.
Australian Defence Force soldiers have flooded the town and surrounding outposts to help with the clean-up efforts, distribute feed to affected farmers and dispose of dead stock.
Brett Davidson, from Agriculture Victoria, said 80 initial assessments in the north-east district, including in the heavily-hit towns of Walwa and Berringama, had uncovered 1150 livestock losses, with a further 1300 cattle missing.
DELWP has had to euthanase 59 stock, he said.
Authorities continue today to work to strengthen containment lines.
Roads in the area remain blocked, with authorities warning motorists to be patient while they ensure the path is clear and safe before reopening.