Man charged over Vic firefighter death

A man has been charged over the fatal head-on car crash in regional Victoria which killed an on-duty Forest Fires Management worker and seriously injured his colleague.

The 46-year-old driver from Alexandra was charged on Monday with dangerous driving causing the death of the state's third bushfire victim Mat Kavanagh, 43.

The accused man had been fighting for life in hospital after the collision on the Goulburn Valley Highway at Thornton on January 3, while a 47-year-old ute driver was injured.

He has been remanded to appear in court on April 28.

Mat Kavanagh was killed while on duty in a crash at Thornton, Victoria.
Mat Kavanagh was killed while on duty in a crash at Thornton, Victoria.

It comes as the fire threat across the east was slightly downgraded, with all alerts across the state sitting at a watch and act level or lower at midday Monday.

Milder weather is forecast across the week with rain developing in the state's east on Wednesday and extending at least until Saturday.

Despite the respite, temperatures will hover about 30C and winds are still gusting, meaning the danger lingers and fires show no sign of relenting.

"These fires aren't out and they're not going to be out until they burn themselves out or we finish with a really big rain event," Premier Daniel Andrews toldKIIS FMon Monday.

"The weather bureau's not telling us that's likely."

Mr Kavanagh and his wife Jude.
Mr Kavanagh and his wife Jude.

There are 19 active fires across Victoria, more than 1.3 million hectares have been burnt and 1500 firefighters remain on the job.

While hundreds of properties and structures have been lost to the fires, so have the lives of four men.

Wonthaggi father of two Bill Slade, 60, was working at the edge of a fire at Anglers Rest, near Omeo, when he was struck by a tree on Saturday, becoming the fourth death.

Mr Slade had worked on major fire incidents in the past including the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires.

Veteran firefighter, Bill Slade, was struck and killed by a falling tree while working with a forest fire management taskforce. Picture: Supplied
Veteran firefighter, Bill Slade, was struck and killed by a falling tree while working with a forest fire management taskforce. Picture: Supplied

"Bill was a much loved colleague, friend and member of the Wonthaggi community. He'll be sorely missed by Parks Victoria," Parks Victoria chief Matt Jackson said.

Poor and very poor air quality conditions due to the bushfires are forecast statewide, with smoke and haze in the east, northeast and central Victoria.

Visibility has been reduced to about 500m in East Gippsland and about 5 kilometres in Melbourne due to smoke from fires in the state's far east and NSW.


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