Beaufort, Victoria bushfire evacuation: ‘Beast’ blaze closes in on town as 30,000 Aussies are ordered to leave their homes and 100 schools close

A tent community has sprung up in the regional Victorian city of Ballarat in less than 48 hours as firefighters and volunteers prepare for catastrophic conditions.

Ballarat’s 131 hectare Victoria Park has become a base camp for hundreds of fires ahead of Wednesday’s extreme and catastrophic fire threat across the state’s western, central and northern regions.

Firefighters could be there for more than a month, depending on how the rest of the fire season goes.

Victorian County Fire Service Deputy Chief Officer Rohan Luke said it had been a significant effort to set up the camp in such a short space of time.

“Setting up base camps normally takes some time,” he told reporters at the scene on Wednesday morning.

“It’s actually a small town.”

The camp has enough tents for about 300 firefighters and is already half full after the arrival of NSW firefighters on Tuesday evening.

“There were 160 here last night,” Mr. Luke said.

“When we bring night crews here… there are air-conditioned marquee tents so those who sleep during the day can get a good night’s sleep.”

Of the 160 campers, about 100 were from the NSW Rural Fire Service and a further 25 from NSW Fire Rescue.

Briefing NSW strike teams on Wednesday morning, Mr Luke said morale was high despite many people driving more than 10 hours from Sydney.

“They were able to be well fed and get a good night’s sleep,” he said.

Two of the strike teams will remain at base camp for the time being and another two will go to a pre-staging area in Ballan, east of Ballarat.

“What we have done is split up the task forces so that they can achieve a maximum footprint to cover a number of areas,” Mr Luke said.

Authorities’ main concerns are the fire in Bayindeen, northwest of Ballarat, which is breaching containment lines amid forecast high temperatures, strong winds and other fires that could be ignited elsewhere by dry lightning.

“We can’t predict where that is,” Mr. Luke said.

“The catastrophic (fire danger) in the Wimmera is where the most critical firefighting will be, but we can’t take our eyes off the rest of the state either.

“There is capacity in other parts of the state to ensure any new fires are dealt with promptly.”

– Callum Godde for Australian Associated Press