'Act immediately to survive': Fires rip through Australia's southeast

A spot fire burns on the Bunyip side of the Princes Highway in the Australian state of Victoria on Sunday.

(CNN)A series of devastating brush fires have swept through Australia's southeastern state of Victoria, destroying multiple properties and forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.

The blazes were caused by lightning strikes late last week, according to Andrew Crisp, the Victoria emergency management commissioner. Crisp said that as of Monday morning, 19 fires were still burning.
"This is a challenging time and it's going to be a very busy time for firefighters and emergency services across the state," he said.
    State emergency management authorities have issued a series of serious warnings in recent days, urging residents in danger to "act immediately to survive."
      "It's hot, dry, smoke in the air," Trevor Owen, an official with Australia's Country Fire Authority, said Sunday.
      "It's tough and dangerous work, so full credit to our firefighters."