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Mallacoota on high fire alert as visitor numbers swell isolated community

Forecast weather conditions in north east Victoria have fire authorities on high alert and with an increased presence in Mallacoota.

CFA firefighters in Mallacoota. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

CFA firefighters in Mallacoota. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

An out of control bushfire that began at Wingan River on Sunday afternoon has increased rapidly in size, already reaching the coast just east of Point Hicks.

It has already burnt out more than 17,300ha and threatens to spread west and east along the coast depending on wind conditions.

A community meeting was held at short notice in Mallacoota, where around 150 Country Fire Authority personnel arrived overnight to help advise and protect the local population as well as the large influx of summer tourists.

There is only one road into Mallacoota from the Princes Hwy. Everyone is being told at this stage that staying in Mallacoota is the safest option. However, the highway remains open to the north for anyone choosing to leave now.

Mallacoota has a permanent population of around 1000 people. However it's a popular tourist destination in summer with estimates putting the figure closer to 10,000 in town at the moment.

"We've got a lot of new friends and we want to keep everyone safe...this is about getting people as prepared and as organised as we possible can," said Darryl Burns, ranger in charge of emergency operations in East Gippsland.

"We want you to maintain a high level of awareness about what's going on.

"What gives me a lot of concern is the weather conditions. We believe at some time tonight that we're expecting a south-westerly wind change - maybe some time between 10pm and 3am

"That wind change will drive the fire towards us.

"The concern is a big fire could be coming, but it will be coming in the middle of the night.

"It will be a long day and a long night."

CFA firefighters in Mallacoota. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

CFA firefighters in Mallacoota. Photo: Rachel Mounsey

Another spokesman at the community meeting, "Sooty" said this was "probably the most significant fire weather since Black Saturday".

He offered the large crowd plenty of advice on what to do if the worst was to happen.

"It's going to be noisy and it's going to be scary, but if you do the right things now and between now and then you give yourselves the best chance."

Mallacoota's Local Incident Management Plan, click here