REGION - If forecasters are correct today will be the first of a string of days where temperatures exceed 40 degrees, signalling the start of what could be one of the most severe heatwaves on record.
Maximum daytime temperatures aren't expected to drop below 40 degrees until at least the end of the traditional working week creating stifling conditions that have prompted warnings from health experts and fire authorities.
The Chief Health Officer has issued a Heat Health Alert for the Wimmera District which includes Northern Grampians Shire for today.
Residents are urged to drink plenty of water, avoid going outside during the heat of the day and seek medical attention if they are feeling unwell.
They are also reminded not to leave children or animals inside parked vehicles.
Heat Health Alerts are issued when the Bureau of Meteorology forecasts temperatures above heat health thresholds for particular days.
Northern Grampians Shire Mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin said the most important thing during these heatwave conditions was for everyone to look after themselves and each other.
"It is important to ensure the younger and older people in our communities and those people who may be suffering from an illness are being cared for on Heat Health alert days as these people are often more vulnerable to extreme temperatures,” he said.
“The most important things to do in these conditions are the simple ones. Look after yourself and keep in touch with others, drink plenty of water, keep yourself cool and stay out of the sun.
“Our Home and Community Care team will be paying special attention to all their clients on these hot days, but we also encourage our residents to check in with any friends or family who may be particularly vulnerable to heat stress.”
The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast a top of 43 degrees in Stawell today, 40 tomorrow and a sizzling 42 Thursday. The temperature is again expected to nudge 40 on Friday.
Stawell hasn’t endured a run of hot days similar since January 2010 when the temperature in town surpassed 40 degrees for three days in a row.
Country Fire Authority District 16 duty officer David Harris said firefi ghters will be at the ready for any outbreaks of fire during the week.
“With the hot weather upon us we know that fires are likely to cause problems for fi refighters and have the potential to be made more difficult due to the wind,” he said.
“We urge farming communities to pay attention to their surroundings and limit the work they do on days when conditions are going to be at their worst.
“Those in tourist destinations or camping should also be alert to the warnings and that if a total fi re ban is declared they follow the warnings.”
Mr Harris said country motorists could also do their bit to negate the threat of fire.
Drivers pulling off to the side of the road to inspect vehicles frequently inadvertently start fires putting a strain on resources.
Mr Harris said incident control centres and fire towers will all be manned with CFA members prepared to deal with any threat of fire.
He said air base crews would be on a heightened level of readiness to reload fi re bombers if required.
In the event of an emergency Northern Grampians Shire Council may open emergency relief centres.
Council may also extend the opening hours of its pools to help people to stay cool.
All updates about any relief centres and changes to pool opening hours will be posted on Council’s website www.ngshire.vic.gov.au and available from customer service on 5358 8700 (Stawell) or 5495 1500 (St Arnaud).