Emergency services insist they are not “crying wolf” with warnings about extreme fire danger followed by an extreme storm event.
The temperature is set to rise to 31 degrees on Tuesday, accompanied by winds of up to 150km/h, and authorities are pleading with residents to prepare for the conditions.
Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin said there was no room for complacency.
“This is not a case of crying wolf. This is the case of a very genuine concern about the weather tonight and tomorrow, both from a fire perspective and from a storm perspective.”
The forecast conditions are being compared to those on Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday.
Strong winds are expected to start late on Monday, with a cool change and fierce winds coming through on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Authorities \’not crying wolf\’
Mr Esplin said emergency service had done everything they could to be prepared but the community also needed to step up.
“They\’ve done amazingly well over the last few weeks, but we need even more from them,” he said.
“We need people to understand that tonight will be a night of some danger, we need people to be aware, prepared and alert.”
Country Fire Authority (CFA) chief fire officer Russell Rees echoed Mr Esplin\’s calls.
“Let me assure you, we are not crying wolf,” Mr Rees said.
He hit back at criticism of warnings last week that Friday would be a bad fire day, after few serious problems occurred.
\’Very dangerous\’ situation
“We feel a little like you\’re damned if you do and you\’re damned if you don\’t.
“Let me assure you, we are warning the people of Victoria that this situation is very dangerous for us and let me assure you if we do work together we can survive and come through this.”
Preparations will start at 8pm on Monday, with over 4,000 firefighters set to be out in force on Tuesday.
Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) chief officer Ewan Waller said firefighter safety was also a big concern.
“We\’re expecting a lot of trees to come down with the wind,” Mr Waller said.
“A lot are unstable anyway, with the fires and the very dry conditions. We most likely will move firefighters off the line very early, we can not afford to keep them in the line if it is at all hazardous.”
Major fires still burning
Firefighting aircraft may also not be able to be used due to the strong winds.
“We can not assume that any part of the state will be safe tomorrow.”
Four major fires are still burning, with the north-eastern end of the Kilmore-Murrindindi fire causing the most concern.
Mr Waller stressed that any fire that started up would move quickly due to the strong winds.
Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) spokesman Keith Adamson said people in metropolitan areas needed to realise it is not just a “rural problem”.
Telstra will send text messages to its two million Victorian customers warning them of the weather predictions, and other mobile phone providers are expected to do the same.
Decisions will be made about school closures later on Monday.