(Bloomberg) -- Hundreds of people have been urged to evacuate rural towns in Australia’s Victoria state as a massive grassland bushfire threatens their homes.

About 1,000 firefighters are battling the blaze near the town of Beaufort, about 100 miles west of Melbourne, Premier Jacinta Allan told reporters on Thursday. Authorities have issued an emergency warning to residents there and in surrounding towns, telling them to head to the nearby regional city of Ballarat.

“This is a fire situation that is continuing to evolve very quickly,” Allan told reporters. “As this fire continues to move, and with the wind change coming through in a few hours, it does signal there are going to be difficult conditions for quite a few hours.” 

Some Australian regions have experienced record-breaking dry, hot conditions in recent months, prompting concerns of an elevated bushfire risk. Temperatures in Victoria reached as high as 40 degrees celsius on Thursday, accompanied by hot dry winds.

Australia has a troubled history with bushfires. Between July 2019 and March 2020, the so-called Black Summer fires raged across the nation’s east, killing 33 people and consuming 24 million hectares of land — an area roughly equivalent to half of California. 

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