UPDATE: VICTORIANS have been told to brace for severe fire conditions today with temperatures expected to hit 43C in northern Victoria.
Total fire bans are in place across much of Victoria, with temperatures up to 43C expected in the north, and 39C forecast for Melbourne.
Residents are being urged to check their fire plans and have several sources of communication ready to receive danger warnings and updates.
- FIRE CONDITIONS IN VICTORIA AND ADVICE ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR THEM:
* Total fire ban declared for the Wimmera, central, north central and southwest districts for Thursday
* Severe fire danger rating for those four districts. Very high rating elsewhere in state
* Currently no fires of significance burning
* Temperatures expected to reach into the 40s in some parts of the state on Thursday
* Moderate northwesterly winds expected on Thursday
* Extremely dry conditions across the state with no recent significant rainfall
Preparations and advice:
* People advised to monitor the FireReady app, CFA website, text message alerts, radio and local conditions
* Waterbombing helicopter Elvis back at Essendon Airport and ready for deployment after undergoing engine repairs
* 8000 firefighting personnel currently on standby
* Farmers encouraged to postpone use of machinery that could cause sparks in open air
* Holiday-makers encouraged to familiarise themselves with local emergency alert services and conditions
* Thursday: Mildura 43C, Horsham 42C, Shepparton 40C, Echuca 41C, Albury-Wodonga 39C, Warrnambool 38C, Melbourne 39C
* Friday: Mildura 36C, Horsham 29C, Shepparton 37C, Echuca 36C, Albury-Wodonga 40C, Warrnambool 22C, Melbourne 29C
The alert comes as the State Opposition says evidence of CFA paid staff reductions in the middle of last year could affect services.
But in good news for firefighters, Elvis the Helitanker is on standby after having its engine replaced.
Mr Baillieu said the next couple of days would be "another test for Victoria" after weeks of dry conditions and little rainfall.
Australia has baked and indeed, Victoria, has been a part of that," he said.
"There will be considerable risk of bushfires in many parts of Victoria."
Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley urged Victorians to watch for warnings, including those issued through multiple sources such as the radio, websites or phones.
He said firefighters were well-prepared to battle any blazes, and - while winds were forecast to be mild - there was a fear any fires that do break out would move extremely fast due to the dry conditions.
A total fire ban has been declared for the central, north central, Wimmera, and southwest regions of Victoria, and Mr Lapsley said people should avoid using machinery that could create sparks.
A cool change is expected to sweep through the southwest in the afternoon, before hitting Melbourne on Friday morning.
Meanwhile, the State Opposition and United Firefighters Union have savaged CFA staff cuts last year, revealed under FOI laws.
Documents show that 50 paid positions were lost between April and October.
Opposition Emergency Services spokeswoman Jacinta Allan said the cuts were "impacting heavily on the ability for our firefighters to do their job".
A CFA spokesman, Gerard Scholten, said "like any workplace, positions and staff numbers change" and Victoria had never had so many career firefighters.
Read more on the Herald Sun