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Vic: Mild conditions help fire fighters, but new blazes threaten

By Xavier La Canna
13 Feb 2009 8:56 PM

MELBOURNE, Feb 13 AAP - Authorities say the threat of new bushfires in Victoria remains high, despite the mild conditions and light winds that continue to assist fire fighters.

About 4,200 fire fighters tackled deadly bushfires around Victoria on Friday, which have so far killed at least 181 people.

Early on Friday there was a urgent threat to small towns east of Melbourne including Healesville and Badgery's Creek, but by evening the message had been downgraded to "alert".

The bushfires, Australia's worst natural disaster, have burned through 413,000 hectares and destroyed at least 1,834 homes since Saturday.

Country Fire Authority spokesman David Jarwood said mild conditions on Friday had assisted efforts to control the fires.

"It has enabled us to work on containment lines, and that is really how this fire will be put out," Mr Jarwood said.

Six main fires are still burning uncontrolled, including blazes at Kinglake, Yea-Murrindindi, Maroondah-Yarra, Bunyip, Churchill and Beechworth-Murmungee.

"One thing to be really mindful of the fact is that while all of our attention is focused on these fires, the state is tinder dry, and a fire could pop up in any area," Mr Jarwood said.

"It is the 13th of February. We have still got a lot of fire season ahead of us," he said.

Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) spokesman Kevin Love said more bushfires were expected next week.

"We are expecting lightning early next week which will set more bushfires off, but we still have some quite active fire in the area to the east of Healesville and we are trying to get a decent containment line around it," Mr Love said.

CFA, DSE and interstate fire fighters will be aided on Saturday by 52 New Zealand fire officers.