Page last updated at 07:50 GMT, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

More crews head to Victoria fires

Firefighters douse a smouldering tree in foam in Daylesford, Australia, on 24 February 2009
Temperatures are not expected to get as high as on "Black Saturday"

More firefighters have been drafted in to battle bushfires in Victoria, southern Australia, ahead of hot weather forecast for Friday.

Crews from New South Wales, Western Australia and New Zealand will bolster the 3,000 firefighters already tackling the blazes.

They want to contain six major fires still burning before Friday, when high winds and temperatures are expected.

The hot weather is expected to reignite some fires, an official said.

"Going into Friday we'll be expecting new (fire) starts, and also that some of the fires we're patrolling and working with at the moment will re-light," Environment Department spokesman Ewan Waller said.

But temperatures on Friday are not expected to reach the same levels as 7 February or "Black Saturday", when more than 200 people lost their lives in dozens of fires.

"I don't think anyone wants to overstate what could happen on Friday, but people need to be prepared, need to be alert, be vigilant," Bruce Esplin, Victoria's emergency services commissioner, said.

Memorial service

Earlier on Wednesday a service was held in the town of Marysville to commemorate the 45 residents who died there.

About 600 people attended the service in the fire-ravaged town north-east of Melbourne, ABC said.

Officials said on Tuesday that a total of 2,029 homes had been destroyed by the fires. The government has promised help with rebuilding.

The country's biggest-ever arson investigation is continuing into the causes of the fires.

One man has already been charged with starting one of the blazes and police suspect arson in at least one other case.

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