Australia fires: Crews brace for dangerous heatwave

  • December 27, 2019

New South Wales Rural Fire Service observers during back burning operations near Picton, Australia December 22, 2019. Picture taken December 22, 2019. REUTERS/Jill Gralow

A heatwave forecast to sweep across Australia in coming days could escalate conditions for the nation’s bushfires, authorities fear.

Temperatures are set to hit over 40C (104F) from Friday in several bushfire-affected states including New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.

There are more than 100 fires burning, with the largest to the west of Sydney.

Firefighters took advantage of cooler temperatures over Christmas to try and and contain fire fronts.

“[It] is all about shoring up protection before we see the conditions deteriorate again,” said New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons on Friday.

The surge of heat is due to return just a week after Australia recorded its two hottest days on record, consecutively. On 19 December, the national average maximum hit an all-time high of 41.9C (107.4F).

Fire officials said they were bracing for similar dryness, low humidity and volatile winds. Last week, dozens of homes were lost in rural towns south-west of Sydney from a flare-up in the blazes.

“We’re not expecting the catastrophic conditions like we’ve seen in the last few weeks… but it’s certainly going to be another tough period,” said Fitzsimmons.

Holidaymakers have been warned to check the status of major highways before setting out, after some roads were cut off last week due to bushfires.

Massive blazes to the south-west of Sydney could also pose a threat to the city’s drinking water supplies, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.