‘Watch and act’ alerts also remain in place for four other areas of the state’s east and north-east on Monday morning, as firefighters and emergency services work to strengthen containment lines ahead of warmer weather expected in the coming days.
A spokeswoman for Emergency Management Victoria’s state control centre said there were still live concerns, even though firefighters had experienced cooler weather overnight.
“Some of those fires are misbehaving and jumping around, so the fire danger is still very real. Emergency services are working hard to return access to roads and help people get back to their homes,” she said.
If the weather conditions remain favourable over the coming days, crews will be backburning to manage the spread of the fire in the area, she said.
Bureau of Meteorology’s duty forecaster Tom Sejes said in Victoria’s north-east where fire activity was occurring, weather conditions would be “more settled, with a little bit of wind about”.
Bairnsdale is expecting a top temperature of 27 degrees on Monday, rising to 31 degrees on Tuesday and Wednesday, but by Thursday it will be rainy and expecting a top of 23 degrees.
“By Tuesday, [East Gippsland] will be heating up a few more degrees, but there will be a bit more moisture moving in from up north, which is always helpful for subduing those more dangerous fire conditions,”Mr Sejes said.
Mount Buffalo is expecting a top of 33 degrees on Monday.
The fires in the Alpine area have already burnt more than 406,500 hectares, with the large Abbeyard fire expected to burn for several weeks.
A fire at Mount Buffalo merged with a fire at Abbeyard on Friday, and now spans an area greater than 69,000 hectares.
Emergency Management Victoria’s state control centre spokesman Luke Hegarty said bushland around the fire was still very dry, and was leading to smaller, localised spread of fires which have spurred emergency warnings.
“The challenge is right now that any little bit of wind at the moment is enough to push these fires along,” he said on Monday morning.
“We’re now putting in additional effort to containment, so we’re not challenged by spread of the fire when conditions change in the next week or so.
“Each day we get up our sleeve to look more strategically … is a day closer to being able to contain large parts of these fires.”
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said on Sunday that the forecast for this week was “fairly benign” and fire services were currently most concerned about the Abbeyard fire.
“Even though there are fairly benign weather conditions today, this is another reminder that we have a fairly active fire out there and people need to stay across conditions in their local areas,” he said.
Work is under way to access two townships still cut off from road and air access: Club Terrace and Combienbar.
Bill Slade, a firefighter from Forest Fire Management died while fighting a blaze in Omeo, near the Alpine National Park, Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp confirmed on Saturday night.
It brings the Victorian death toll from the bushfires to four.
While the bulk of the state’s firefighting efforts will now turn to reinforcing containment lines and burning areas of bush that haven’t yet been touched by nearby fires, but could catch alight at any moment, authorities are quick to remind Victorians that the fire threat is far from over.
According to Emergency Management Victoria’s State Control Centre more than 1.35 million hectares have been burnt across the state.
More than 3147 damage assessments had been carried out and 288 residential and 431 non-residential structures have been damaged or destroyed by fires.
Temperatures in East Gippsland will climb into the low 30s by Wednesday. The Bureau of Meteorology is also predicting a chance of lightning, storms and heavy rainfall from Wednesday until the weekend.
Smoke is expected to blow back into Melbourne on Monday, with air quality to be rate “poor” to “very poor” until Wednesday.
Chief fire officer from Forest Fire Management, Chris Hardman, said it was likely they would be fighting these fires for months.
With Simone Fox Coob, Rachel Wells
Ashleigh McMillan is a breaking news reporter at The Age. Got a story? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org