Bushfire emergency warnings issued for Gembrook, Dargo, Budgeree amid hot conditions
Photo: The Princes Freeway has been closed because of the fire risk. (ABC News: Damian McIver)
More than 300 Victorian firefighters are battling a number of out-of-control bushfires burning in the Bunyip State Park and around the eastern part of the state.
Hot weather conditions are contributing to unpredictable fire behaviour, emergency officials said, causing the flames to spread in many directions with spotting ahead of fires a particular problem.
The main fire emergency warnings are for a complex of fires in the Bunyip State Park, another one at Dargo in far eastern Victoria and a fire around Budgeree and Yinnar South, south of Morwell.
There are also watch and act warnings in place for communities near those covered by emergency warnings.
See all the latest warnings on the VicEmergency website.
Firefighters said two fires in the Bunyip State Park have joined up in hot, windy conditions and now cover about 1,500 hectares.
Trevor Owen, from the CFA, called it a developing situation because the extent of the fire had been "quite dynamic" and erratic.
"We're concerned because we have further forecast strong northerly winds tomorrow so we're making all efforts that we can to try [to] prevent the head of the fire from spreading," he said.
"[The fire] … is impacting into communities … in amongst that Maryknoll, Tynong North, Tynong [and] Garfield areas."
Everyone north of the Gippsland V/line railway line in the area is advised to shelter in place because it is too late to leave, Mr Owen said, and everyone south of the railway line should consider relocating immediately.
"There is life and property risk so we're moving [in] extra resources," he said.
"We're bringing in additional resources to try to protect as much of the property as we can particularly in the Garfield, Bunyip area."
Victoria's Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the Bunyip State Park fire was causing the most concern.
"At the moment we have an emergency warning in place for communities south of the Bunyip State Park," he said.
"[That means] there is a potential for that fire to impact on the Princes Highway, so we have both sides closed at Nar Nar Goon.
"We had the large air tankers fly on them earlier today … We have at least half a dozen airplanes and helicopters flying on that fire."
Zol Gyore from Maryknoll spent the night sleeping in his car next to a petrol station with his wife and son.
He was among dozens of locals lining the edge of the Princes Freeway watching smoke blacken the sky.
"It's a strange feeling, watching that smoke thinking it could be our house going up," he said.
"But we're alive, that's just bricks and mortar."
He said the town was told to evacuate last night after dry lightning ignited several fires.
An emergency relief centre has been set up at the Pakenham Hall.
Robert Trigg from Pakenham Upper left the fire zone to take shelter with his wife, son, dog and three horses at Akoonah Park in Berwick.
"We don't expect to be going home soon," he said.
"This is potentially as bad as I've seen."
The Trigg family left home this morning once they saw the emergency warnings for their area.
It's been their regular bushfire plan to leave the area whenever the fire gets close — and they never forget the horses.
"They're like family, we'd hate to see anything happen to them," he said.
Other fires burning at Dargo, Budgeree
Another emergency warning has been issued for a bushfire seven kilometres north-west of Dargo, in far eastern Victoria.
The fire, which is about 226 hectares in size, is moving south towards the small community.
However, fire crews have managed to stop the spread of the fire, which is burning on the boundary between state forest and private property.
Six waterbombing aircraft are working on the blaze.
Communities which could be affected include Black Snake Creek, Cowa, Crooked River, Gibs, Hawkhurst, Macguires and Miowera.
Fire officials said the safest option was to leave before conditions became too dangerous.
People evacuating are urged to head south towards Bairnsdale using the Dargo Road
Fire authorities said the Princes Freeway had been closed around midday between the Nar Nar Goon interchange and Drouin.
Another emergency warning has been issued for a bushfire at Budgeree, Jumbuk and Yinnar South which is threatening homes and lives.
The fire is several kilometres from Yinnar South and is spreading in a south and easterly direction.
A relief centre has been set up at the Kernot Hall in Morwell and fire officials said leaving now was the safest option.
Latrobe City municipal recovery manager Robyn Duffy said some people had arrived at the centre but she was not sure how many others would come.
"It really depends on how people decide with their emergency planning what they will do in the event of a fire," Ms Duffy said.
"Some people will leave early or as soon as they can and we're just providing support for them if they do decide to that."
There are concerns a wind change in the next six hours could change the direction of the fire.