Western Victoria is bracing itself for a horror fire day on Tuesday, with the first catastrophic fire day rating issued for the state in five years.
The Wimmera region has received the catastrophic fire rating, with total fire bans declared in the Wimmera, Mallee and Northern Country fire districts.
The catastrophic fire rating, first introduced in 2009 in the wake of the Black Saturday fires, is used extremely rarely.
On days of catastrophic fire danger people in high risk fire areas are urged by authorities not to stay and defend their homes but to leave to areas of lower risk.
The forecasters are troubled by a dynamic set of weather conditions with hot and windy conditions followed by a blustery change and potential storms, which fire fighters warn can present extremely problematic conditions.
Horsham, the major city in the Wimmera, will see the mercury climb to 37 with northerly winds in the early afternoon according to three-hour weather models before a change rolls in from the west, seeing winds swing to the south-west and blowing at up to 50 kilometres per hour.
Along with this there will be thunderstorms and dry lightning with little rainfall predicted.
There will be major disruptions as a result of the catastrophic rating.
Bus services have been cancelled for schools and a number of schools throughout the Wimmera have also been called off for the day.
Access to national and state parks in the Wimmera region, including the Grampians, Little Desert and Mount Arapiles / Tooan will also be restricted as authorities try to keep people out of areas of high fire risk.
Victorian emergency management commissioner Rick Nugent said the fact it was the first time since 2019 a catastrophic rating had been issued showed how serious the conditions would be.
Country Fire Authority chief officer Jason Heffernan said predicted conditions would be some of the most dangerous grassfire conditions since the Black Summer of 2019-20, which caused significant damage in eastern Victoria.
"Fires that start and take hold can grow large very, very quickly," CO Heffernan said.
"It can not be understated how challenging those conditions can be for our firefighters - and we need the community to do their bit."
This meant leaving areas of high risk where possible.
CO Heffernan said the safest option for people currently in bushfire risk areas within the Wimmera region was to start planning to leave tonight or early in the morning.
"[Tuesday's] conditions will put you and your families lives at risk if a fire starts and takes hold," CO Heffernan said.
"Do not plan to defend your home on catastrophic fire danger days - the safest place to be is away from high-risk areas such as campsites, parks and forests.
with Australian Associated Press