A third person is confirmed to have died in Victoria's bushfires as a South Australian town is evacuated ahead of disastrous conditions expected tomorrow.
Forest Fires Management worker Mat Kavanagh, 43, died when his vehicle crashed on the Goulburn Valley Highway on January 3.
Victorian Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville confirmed his death was related to the bushfires, following a police investigation.
It’s with great sadness that I share the news of the loss of one of our own during what has been an extremely difficult and challenging time for many. Mat Kavanagh was a dedicated member of our team for 10 years and was much loved. Our hearts go out to Mat's family and friends. pic.twitter.com/KXWIHn6UFt— Chris Hardman (@FFMVic_Chief) January 8, 2020
Meanwhile the Kangaroo Island town of Vivonne Bay is being evacuated amid fears lives could be lost if a bushfire still burning escalates and breaches containment lines as weather deteriorates.
Residents will be asked to seek refuge in either Kingscote or Penneshaw, with accommodation camps being set up.
"This is a pre-emptive relocation due to the increased fire risk in the next two days," the Country Fire Service said.
"Currently, there is no immediate threat to life or property but with increasing wind, warmer weather and going fires on Kangaroo Island, this situation is likely to change."
Town’s lucky escape after fire roared through last week
About 75 people live in the south coast town and will not be allowed to return until Friday, but then only if it is deemed safe.
Vivonne Bay was only just spared last week, when fire roared through the western third of the island, burning 160,000 hectares and destroying 56 homes.
Thursday will bring the worst of the conditions with the CFS bringing in extra crews and strengthening containment lines ahead of the danger.
The renewed concerns come with Prime Minister Scott Morrison touring some of the fireground on Wednesday, visiting a property that was among many severely damaged.
Mr Morrison drew on memories of Kangaroo Island as a tourist some years ago to lament the loss of much of its "spectacular" west coast from the fire that has left local communities reeling.
While he saw just a snapshot of the devastated area, the prime minister said he had also seen photographs of what now resembled a lunar landscape, including much of the highly-prized Flinders Chase National Park.
‘This is still a large fire’
As well as the 56 homes, the fire has also destroyed 236 outbuildings and 257 vehicles, while stock losses will run to more than 100,000 animals.
"This is still a large fire, which is not controlled," chief officer Mark Jones told reporters.
"The fire has caused extensive damage to the Flinders Chase conservation park and devastated a number of small communities and properties."
The CFS has completed an aerial survey of the island to determine which areas are likely to be of most concern as temperatures push into the 30s.
New activity is expected on the eastern flank of the fire in areas including Snug Cove, Stokes Bay and in the Andamel, Mt Taylor and Lathami conservation parks.
Mr Jones said the CFS would increase its capability on the island and expected to be well prepared.
Consideration was also being given to bringing in extra water bombers.
‘It’s such a very sad day’
Mr Kavanagh is the latest to have died in Australia’s bushfires, with the death toll now at 26.
The Emergency Services Minister said he was a dedicated and respected member of Forest Fire Management Victoria for about 10 years and was on duty the day he died.
"He's being remembered for his friendly and welcoming nature, his passion for the environment and nature and his love of fly fishing,” she said.
Mr Kavanagh is survived by his wife Jude and two children.
Forest Fires Management Chief Fire Officer Chris Hardman said Mr Kavanagh had worked in many roles at the organisation including as a firefighter, a roads management officer and most recently in fire prevention.
On the morning of the accident, he had extinguished seven unattended campfires.
"He was doing critically important work stopping new fires in the environment and we have 2800 people doing that every day right across the state," Mr Hardman said.
"It's a devastating loss for everybody in the sector but for those people who knew Mat it's going to take a long time – I can't imagine what the family are going through and what Mat's colleagues are going through. It's such a very sad day."
Mick Roberts, 67, from Buchan and Maramingo Creek timber worker Fred Becker were also killed while battling bushfires this summer.
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