Early computer models forecast Sunday’s fire danger as severe, with a possibility some districts could climb to extreme – the second-highest level. Those models will firm up later in the week, and may eventually forecast higher or lower danger levels.
For now, Mr Lapsley is asking Victorians to think ahead and prepare a fire plan for the weekend, in case the worst does come to pass.
“We’re not back in Black Saturday-type weather,” he said. “However, fuels are dry, and that means we’ll see fires.”
On Saturday and Sunday, much of the state is expected to swelter through temperatures of about 36 degrees, with no relief overnight.
Mr Lapsley tipped wind gusts of up to 110km/h for parts of the state on Sunday before a change sweeps through in the early afternoon.
“The most concerning part of the forecast is the wind speeds are right up there,” he said.
The change will eventually bring cooler temperatures, but it could also bring danger: any fires already burning could change direction suddenly, affecting anyone or anything on the fire line.
“The fire danger will be consistent with the wind speed,” Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Richard Carlyon said.
“Five or 10 knots of wind speed can make an enormous difference to fire danger. Worst-case scenario is a windy day with a late change, that can really increase the fire danger.
“There are some differences in the computer models, so we cannot predict it – we’re just expecting fresh, gusty northerly winds.”
Victoria’s summer has been unusually hot – about 1 degree above long-term average temperatures.
It has now been more than a month without significant rainfall, and Victoria’s bush is tinderbox-dry.
“This summer did start off with some thunderstorm activity. We had some isolated falls that kept moisture in the fuel, but we have had a long, dry summer,” Mr Carlyon said.
“I’d expect it to be drier than average for this time of the year.”
Liam is Fairfax Media’s science reporter
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