Thousands of head of livestock and several farm structures have been lost to a grassfire still out of control after crossing into Victoria from South Australia on New Year's Eve, with fire crews battling more dangerous weather conditions.
As temperatures soared across the state again before a cool change, the fire near the small farming settlement of Poolaijelo, south-west of Edenhope in the Wimmera region, was still out of control on Saturday afternoon.
Emergency warnings were at watch and act level with residents of Langkoop, Poolajielo and Powers Creek advised to leave. A relief centre is open at Edenhope Senior Citizens Centre, 54 Langford St, Edenhope.
The fire started at Wrattonbully on the SA side of the border late on Friday afternoon when a car caught fire and set grass alight.
Crews from SA and Victoria worked overnight to fight the blaze, with helicopters and fixed-wing bombers called in.
An estimated 7,000-plus hectares were burnt by Saturday afternoon. The fire is under control in South Australia.
Incident controller Mark Gunning, from Victoria's Country Fire Authority, told the ABC there were no reports of homes lost but structures, including hay sheds, had been destroyed.
"Once it passed Poolaijelo, it then got into some bluegum country and some very old native forest very famous for its red-tailed black cockatoos, so assessments today will assess the damage in there," Mr Gunning said.
Some roads have closed, including the Edenhope-Penola Road and part of the Casterton-Apsley Road.
Local veterinarian Claire Law said thousands of head of livestock, mostly sheep, that were severely fire-affected or certain to suffer in the coming days had been destroyed today.
"But there will be more to come over the next few weeks, once the extent of their burns, the damage, comes to the surface," she said.
"It's pretty tough for the farmers and the people on the ground having to do that sort of work."
Dr Law said the community was "very lucky the houses seemed to survive", given the path of the fire after a wind change and the extent of damage to some farms.
"It sort of swung around and headed in a direction people weren't anticipating because of the original wind direction," she said.
Community rallies to help farmers
Dr Law said farmers now faced months of work repairing fences, sourcing feed for stock, and replacing damaged property.
The fire follows almost two years of difficulty navigating border restrictions, but the "close-knit" community has been quick to respond.
"I am getting messages from people further afield just to see what they can do to help, so it really shows the positiveness of these sort of communities in these sort of times," Dr Law said.
"I think it'll be tonight when they sort of get to sit back and assess what they've had to do in the past 24 hours. It'll hit home for a lot of them.
"Any sort of feed we can get here and help these people out would be very much appreciated."
There are also concerns for native wildlife, with the fire burning in heavily wooded Meereek State Forest.
An Agriculture Victoria spokeswoman said field teams were in the area working with farmers to manage animal welfare issues on fire-affected properties.
Dry lightning worries
CFA deputy chief officer Garry Cook said the weekend's dangerous fire conditions were a reminder to "be very vigilant if you're enjoying the outdoors" with vegetation "primed to burn".
The weather bureau has advised dry lightning is likely this afternoon "from western Melbourne, right up to western Victoria around Horsham and back down into the Otway ranges", Mr Cook said.
Parts of central and east Gippsland are also facing dry lightning risks, although conditions in the east of the state are less dry than the west.
Fire danger ratings across Victoria are high to very high.
© ABC 2022
23:34 AEDT Severe thunderstorms are expected to lash eastern parts of the state today as Victoria continues to count the cost after days of wild weather.