The worst of Victoria’s bushfire crisis this week appears to be over after more than 100,000 hectares was scorched by fire and four homes were lost.
The Victorian bushfire emergency, in which four homes were razed in the state’s worst conditions since Black Saturday, is over, with the premier saying lessons learnt from the 2009 fires had saved lives.
The fires of the past few days, mostly started by lightning, scorched more than 100,000 hectares across the state, with 34 still burning on Saturday.
As conditions cooled on the back of a four-day heatwave, authorities downgraded all emergency warnings.
The firefighting effort will continue for days, but Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday he believed the worst was over.
The main fires are raging in the Grampians, the Mallee and Gippsland.
Four homes were lost in the fire that has burnt through more than 51,000 hectares in the northern end of the Grampians National Park and claimed one life.
Several sheds and many kilometres of fencing were destroyed and up to 7500 sheep were affected, most of which will have to be put down.
The tourist village of Halls Gap was saved from the fire’s path on Friday by an earlier-than-expected wind change.
By Saturday afternoon, the main threat passed and residents were to be allowed back Saturday afternoon.
Homes were lost in the small town of Brimpaen, while two properties near Dadswells Bridge have also been affected.
The Grampians fire also caused building damage at the Troopers Creek Tavern and the Happy Wanderers Holiday Resort at Wartook.
Authorities say a woman whose body was found at her Roses Gap property on Friday morning died as a result of a medical issue.
Crews are still battling fires in the Mallee region in the state’s northwest and in Gippsland in the east, but authorities no longer believe the more than 30 fires raging out of control there will merge to form a 500,000-hectare inferno.
An evacuation order for Halls Gap is the first used since the evacuation policy came in after Black Saturday.
Premier Denis Napthine said authorities would examine how the evacuation went in the Grampians and said compulsory evacuation would not be likely to be introduced.
“I think that would be unworkable more than anything else.”
He said the changes made since Black Saturday included better co-ordination of emergency agencies, which led to better handling of the extreme weather conditions than in 2009.
“There is no doubt that the improvements that have been made from the lessons learnt from Black Saturday have saved lives this week,” he told reporters in Horsham.
The Black Saturday fires of February 7, 2009, killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2000 houses.
Mr Lapsley said that given the conditions, the impact of the fires this week was “not a bad result”.
“You can see that in some respects we’ve had big fires – 100,000 hectares burnt in a matter of basically two days – but you would think that we’ve done reasonably well,” he told reporters.