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Vic: Firefighters work through the night to contain blaze

07 Feb 2009 2:30 AM

MELBOURNE, Feb 7 AAP - More than 100 firefighters worked in shifts overnight carving out control lines to try to contain a fire burning in a state park near Pakenham in Melbourne's east.

Victoria is bracing itself for oven-like conditions on Saturday with temperatures soaring to 43 degrees accompanied by gale force north to northeasterly winds - the perfect ingredients for fierce bushfires.

The rest of southeast Australia is also gearing up for a horror weekend of extreme heat and bushfires.

In Adelaide, the temperature is expected to peak at 41 on Saturday with the mercury in some South Australian country areas tipped to go even higher.

On Sunday, temperatures are likely to top 47 degrees in parts of NSW.

The fire burning in Victoria's Bunyip State Park has destroyed 123 hectares and is threatening the township of Labertouche whose residents have been warned they face direct impact from the blaze.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) says other communities in the area - Jindivick, Drouin, Drouin West, Longwarry, Neerim, Neerim South, Noojee, Bunyip and Tonimbuk - should be on the lookout for smoke, embers and possible fire.

DSE Incident Controller David Nugent said fire crews had worked tirelessly in an effort to minimise Saturday's anticipated spread of the fire.

"Our bulldozer operators have worked non-stop to build control lines around the fire edge and this effort has been greatly enhanced by the work of firefighting aircraft," Mr Nugent said.

Firefighting aircraft included the Elvis Erikson aircrane, fixed wing aircraft dropping retardant on the perimeter of the fire and two medium water bombing helicopters.

Mr Nugent said the power easements supplying Melbourne and other parts of Victoria remained a key issue.

Melbourne Water has released extra water into the Taraoo aqueduct to fight the expected fires.