“Actually in the Melbourne area at the moment, there’s quite a strong smell even in the office here,” Mr Efron said.
Smoke from the East Gippsland fires was being dragged down over the Bass Strait before a south-easterly wind pulls the smoke back up into Melbourne, Mr Efron said.
“The wind regime we’re seeing, we’re seeing north-easterly winds along the NSW south coast that’s transporting smoke across Gippsland and out over Bass Strait and then the winds are turning to more of an east, south-easterly and bringing them back almost in a loop towards Melbourne.”
Air quality was rated as moderate in Melbourne about 7.30am, but it is forecast to worsen through the day.
It is also expected to be very poor in Geelong and the Latrobe Valley, the Environment Protection Authority says.
Mr Efron said smoke could keep conditions stable for fire-affected communities by keeping temperatures down and by stopping winds from developing.
“It does show the conditions are relatively stable in the lower atmosphere, but it’s still obviously very unpleasant.”
Encroaching smoke could thicken over the city on Tuesday morning, before a wind change that afternoon.
The EPA says people should stay indoors where possible and keep windows and doors shut, switch air-conditioners to ‘recirculate’, and keep pets indoors.
Anyone with asthma should have their medication on hand.
Smoke can also have serious effects on people over age 65, children younger than 14, pregnant women and those with existing heart or lung conditions.
Symptoms can include eye, nose and throat irritation, coughing, sneezing and congestion.
For those severely impacted by the smoke, Chief Health Officer Dr Brett Sutton last week said face masks were an option.
“Ordinary paper dust masks, handkerchiefs or bandanas do not filter out fine particles from bushfire smoke and are generally not very useful in protecting your lungs.
“P2 or N95 masks filter bushfire smoke, providing greater protection against inhaling fine particles.
“Masks should not be a substitute for avoiding smoke exposure and can provide false reassurance, so ensure that anyone using a mask understands the need to follow all advice regarding smoke.”
An Ambulance Victoria spokesman said so far he was not aware of a spike in calls due to asthma or air pollution.
Call triple-zero if your life is in danger.
Rachel is a breaking news reporter for The Age.