Fires flare as kids trapped in cars amid Victorian heat

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Ruby Dangerfield, age 16, and Alana Perry, 16, enjoy the beach in Lorne on on the first day of the new year. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
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People flock to the beach on the first day of 2012 at Lorne. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
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Nathan Clark, age 10, keeps cool in Point Cook. Picture:Chris Scott
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UPDATE 10pm: A CFA tanker caught fire while battling a blaze in south-west Victoria this afternoon.

Extreme fire conditions have been declared in southwestern Victoria as temperatures soar into the 40s.

The crew on board the truck abandoned the vehicle after it became marooned on a rock dangerously close to the grass fire threatening two properties in Stonehaven, on the outskirts of Geelong.

CFA spokesman Gerard Scholten made a ‘tactical retreat’ when the fire became a threat to the tanker.

He said the rocky and wet ground made fighting the fire difficult.

CFA Deputy Chief Officer Steve Warrington said he was relieved the five CFA members were not injured.

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Keeping cool in Melbourne


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”Their training kicked in and the crew selected an open, cleared, safe area and moved there to avoid the flames.

”No-one was injured but the tanker suffered flame damage to around half of its body,” he said.

Mr Warrington said overall, despite a busy day, he believed the Total Fire Ban – which aims to stop fire being started – played its part.

The incident came as Victoria’s three fire services battled around 100 fires across the state today as temperatures soared as high as 43C.

”It was a busy day and a number of fires threatened to become quite serous but in the end they were able to be controlled,” Mr Warrington said.

”The biggest fire was the Woolsthorpe Road fire in Koroit, between Warrnambool and Port Fairy, which was more than 10 hectares.

”That fire briefly moved into a pine plantation but fire crews, including a water bomber, managed to control it.

”At its peak, 17 tankers and two aircraft were on scene and crews will remain there to black out but the danger has now passed.”

CFA spokesman Gerald Scholten said crews had brought a large fire in Koroit under control and were also working on another two at Mt Duneed and Barwon Downs.

“The big thing in our favour is the winds aren’t very strong,” Mr Scholten said.

He said that fortunately most of the fires had been quite small.

The fresh battles came after firefighters battled last night to control blazes at Daylesford and Creswick in central Victoria, and near Genoa in the state’s east.

As the mercury spiked in Dartmoor in the southwest at 43C at 2.30pm this afternoon, Melbourne residents did their best to beat the heat amid predictions the city would reach 40C.

But despite the dangers, paramedics have still been called to four cases of children locked locked in cars in the past four days, including two today.

Threat to interstate travellers

Mr Scholten also advised motorists planning travel between Victoria and South Australia to delay their journey to avoid risking being trapped by grass fires as both states swelter through 40C days.

“We suggest drivers know the fire conditions of the area they’re travelling through and to,” he said.

He said the south west of the state had an extreme fire danger.

“If you can avoid being in an extreme fire danger area and while we know that’s not always possible, you should try.”

Treated for heat as kids locked in cars

As soaring temperatures triggered an extreme fire danger alert for the state’s southwest, paramedics were today called to two children who were accidentally locked in a car in Mornington. 

The children were rescued by the RACV, but did not need any treatment.

Another two people have needed treatment for heat exposure.

A 15-year-old boy in Brunswick West was treated by paramedics at his home after feeling unwell and dehydrated for two days. The ambulance officers gave advice to his family on how to deal with the heat.

A 100-year-old woman in Avondale Heights was also treated, but did not need to go to hospital.

Paramedic team manager Darren Murphy urged Victorians to take care in the heat.

“Some of the symptoms to look out for over the next day would be starting with symptoms like headache, feeling excessively thirsty, maybe a rash, light-headed and that can then move into people then feeling loss of consciousness, maybe staggering when they’re walking when that wouldn’t be normal and that turning into seizures and loss of consciousness,” Mr Murphy said.

He said paramedics were often called out to more heat-related cases as the hot weather stayed around for a few days.

Mr Murphy urged drivers to be mindful with children in cars.

“Even for just five minutes when you’re at the service station, as an example, that can affect the children greatly.”

Mr Murphy said paramedics had been called to nine cases of children locked in cars in one day in the last two months, as well as four cases in the last four days. More than 1500 children were rescued from cars in Victoria in the past 12 months.

Another Ambulance Victoria paramedic Gary Robertson said the temperature in any vehicle can rise dramatically.

“Cracking the window or having it open marginally makes no difference,” he said.

“(In) a car on a 29-degree day, in 10 minutes it can be in excess of 40 degrees. Leave it a few more minutes and it’s in excess of 60 degrees and that is an immediate life threat.”

Mr Robertson urged people to stay hydrated and to check on elderly people who lived alone.

“We need to look after each other during these periods of heat,” he said.

Heat stress a big worry

The warnings come as temperatures hit 40C and are still climbing in parts of the state, tipped to hit 42C.

In eastern Victoria, Kanagaulk, two hours from Ararat hit 40.6C just after 1pm.

In the southwest, Dartmoor hit 40.8C, Mortlake 40.6C and Port Fairy hit 40.8C after 1pm.

Melbourne is sitting on 39.3C by 4pm close to the expected 40C top expected – but on the other end of the scale it’s a cool relief for those in Mt Hotham, Mt Buller and Falls Creek, which largely stayed under 22C.

The temperature hovered around 21C for most of the night, dropping to a minimum of 20.1C just after 5am.

Weather bureau duty forecaster Geoff Feren said there would be no relief until a cool change on Wednesday morning.

“We’re still looking at temperatures into the mid-30s on Tuesday,” he said.

Chief Health Officer Rosemary Lester said the effects of heat-related illnesses ranged from mild symptoms such as cramps or a rash to heat stroke, which could kill.

“Those most at risk are people over 65 years, particularly those living alone, people who are unwell, especially with heart or kidney disease, and people who have a disability or mental illness,” she said.

“Elderly people are more prone to heat stress than younger people because their body may not adjust well to sudden temperature change.

“They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition and to be taking medication that may interfere with the body’s ability to regulate temperature.”

Bushfire information is available at and also from the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667.

– with Michelle Ainsworth

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