Ararat Country Fire Authority kept busy with lightning strike fires and gas leak at Ararat Hopkins Correctional Centre

ARARAT Country Fire Authority volunteers were kept busy on Thursday afternoon despite the forecast massive rainfall failing to arrive.

Ararat firefighters were hit with multiple incidents within a short time period as the first storm of the weekend brought lightning strikes that started fires across the region.

As fire crews were preparing to join a large emergency services effort to control a grass fire at Deep Lead, calls went out for a gas leak at Ararat’s Hopkins Correctional Centre and a fire alarm at East Grampians Health Service.

An excavator at the building site for a new ward on Ararat prison reportedly hit an unmarked gas line.

CFA District 16 operations manager Neville Collins said it had been a “busy night” for volunteers as they worked at Deep Lead from Thursday afternoon to the early hours of Friday.

“Arrant SCV ute and tanker one responded to the Deep Lead Fire,” Mr Collins said.

“At the same time the pumper went to a gas leak at the prison; that was an easy fix as they turned off the valve.

“At the same time we had another job at Allanvale and the tanker went on to that as well. That was a tree fire started by lightning, and after that returned to Deep Lead.”

Mr Collins said the Deep Lead fire was also started by lightning 

“We were there all night. The fire came through at 12:56pm and was about 60 hectares,” he said.

“We had two strike teams come across from Ballarat and we had four water bombing aircraft working on it as well as an air attack supervisor telling them where to bomb it. They did some fantastic work.”

Bulldozers also crated earth barrier for the fire and crews returned on Friday for checks and blacking out.

The Ararat and Stawell regions did not see the forecast 80-100 millimetres of rain on Thursday night.

Most weather stations in the region recorded between 19.2 and 27.8mm between 2.30pm on Thursday and 9am on Friday.

Ararat prison weather station recorded the highest overnight rainfall at 28mm, with Stawell recording. 21.8mm.

Weather stations at Ararat, Ben Nevis, Stawell and Westmere all recorded totals of less than 5mm of rain over Saturday and Sunday.

The forecast extreme weather forced the cancellation of the Cinema Pop Up in Ararat’s Elizabeth Park.