Fire sweeps through Strathallan

By Geoff Adams

The 2019 fire season got off to an alarming start with a blaze that swept through farmland between Rochester and Echuca last week.

In weather conditions classified as "catastrophic" a fire erupted at Strathallan on Thursday, claiming a house, shedding and hundreds of hectares of grazing land.

Residents, their neighbours and volunteer CFA firefighters from dozens of brigades across northern Victoria worked to bring the fire under control.

Residents from nearby Rochester and Echuca pitched in to help prepare farmers for evacuation following warnings from the CFA.

The fire was contained on Friday.

CFA District 20 commander Michael Masters said it was an example of what a fire on just one bad day could do.

“There is plenty of potential over the next few weeks for fires like this, if not worse,” he said.

Fifteen tankers were called to a grassfire at Nanneella at 12.25 pm on Thursday.

Mr Masters said about 20ha of private property along Echuca-Nanneella and O’Dea roads was burnt.

Standing in her front yard as the smoke rolled over, Echuca-Nanneella Rd resident Emma Mortimer said it was an eerie sight.

“It was very unnerving watching all the smoke and dust and the wind was so strong and unpredictable; we just didn’t know what to do,” she said.

“It really was a wake-up call for how quickly conditions can change and how important it is to be on alert.”

Fifteen minutes later, another bushfire erupted at the corner of Burgoine and Graham Rds in Strathallan.

“It ran extremely fast to the south and destroyed one house and a farm building,” Mr Masters said.

“An ambulance was called for a woman suffering from stress on Burgoine Rd.”

The fire triggered an emergency warning for people living in Bonn, Fairy Dell, Nanneella, Rochester, Strathallan and Timmering; who were told it was ‘‘too late to leave’’.

The fire also damaged parts of the Echuca-Bendigo rail line.

Thursday's Code Red fire day saw many schools and early learning centres across northern Victoria closed for the day.