Teenage girl charged with starting Carrum Downs bushfire as residents assess damage

| 07.01,18. 11:14 PM |

Teenage girl charged with starting Carrum Downs bushfire as residents assess damage

Photo: The fire burned dangerously close to neighbouring homes forcing evacuations. (ABC News: Bridget Judd

A 15-year-old girl has been charged with intentionally starting a bushfire that damaged a home at Carrum Downs, in Melbourne's south-east, on Saturday.

About 30 residents were also evacuated from houses in Darnley Drive and August Court after the fire spread to a reserve on Blue Wren Rise just before 3:00pm.

Police said the teenager had been released on bail and would appear at a children's court at a later date.

Jim Crozier's house was damaged when embers got in through an evaporative cooling unit on the roof.

The fire looked "horrendous" he said, describing how he tried to hose down his back fence before he was eventually forced to flee.

He said he had been overwhelmed by the community support shown to him since the fire.

One man went out and bought him a pair of jeans and shirt because Mr Crozier insisted on playing a gig with his band after the fire.

"It was the best place for me to be, on stage, surrounded by people who were overwhelmingly affectionate," he said.

"I'm terrified to go anywhere near the house. I don't want to see the house."

Mt Crozier said his music studio was probably damaged and he had lost an art collection worth $40,000.

No-one was injured in the fire which travelled about 1.5 kilometres and blackened 36 hectares of bush.

At the height of the fire, 300 firefighters and two aircraft tackled the blaze and residents were forced to put out spot fires on their properties.

Joanne Latreille, a mother of four, was at work at the time of the fire but said she was still in shock.

The fire reached just outside her house, leaving her Christmas tree a charred ruin.

Her husband George was at home at the time of the fire.

"He really had no hope, saying 'Look, I think the house is going to go because it was way too close'," she said.

"To look out the back fence now and see the devastation is horrible.

"Yesterday morning it was green, lush and now it's just black … horrible."

Incident controller Bernard Barbetti said the fire was "looking pretty good" at the moment.

"It's not really running within containment lines. You can't see any smoke here today," he said.

"It's pretty much well contained and we don't expect any problems as far as control goes."

However emergency crews will keep an eye on the fire throughout the week.

Another resident said she was not home at the time of the fire but when she returned there was "smoke everywhere".

Still hot in northern Victoria

Craig Lapsley, the state's Emergency Management Commissioner, said there were 114 grass and bush fires on Saturday and 25 building and structure fires.

"Well done Victorians for being tuned in and looking after each other," he said in a tweet.

Dean Stewart, a senior forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology, said after highs of 45 degrees Celsius at Mildura and Walpeup in the state's north-west, the weather conditions in southern Victoria today had improved significantly.

"Temperatures fell 10C in six minutes as that change moved through," he said.

"The last time we exceeded 40 degrees was back in 2015 when we reached 42.2C on January 13."

However conditions remain hot in the state's north around the Murray River.

"[There will be] temperatures of around 39, 40, 41 degrees around the Albury area, so very hot conditions in the north," Mr Stewart said.

"But the winds are a lot lighter today so whilst we're still expecting some very high fire dangers across the north, not the severe to extreme fire dangers that we had yesterday."


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