Fires burning up eastern Australia in summer heatwave

Aerial view of fire at Copping/Forcett, Tasmania on January 4. Image: Chuq.
Aerial view of fire at Copping/Forcett, Tasmania on January 4. Image: Chuq.

Despite earlier cooler weather, heatwave conditions are expected to resume in New South Wales, Australia. Local weather service forecasts expect temperatures to rise above 40°C (104°F), as-experienced earlier in the week.

The percentage of uncontained fires jumped as high as 20%. On Friday, local fire authorities have declared total fire bans across Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. Fire crews at the east coast of Australia are readying to battle an increased rate of bushfires during the weekend.

Uncontrolled fires have also been burning across the states of Tasmania, Victoria, and Queensland.

Extremely hot weather and strong winds played havoc with the fires early in the week. A minor change in the weather assisted crews on Thursday but the high temperatures are set to return on Friday and through the weekend.

Thirty devastating fires in Tasmania are now being controlled after burning 130 properties and 110,000 hectares of land throughout the past week.

In Victoria there are two significant fires being fought with several others now under control but concerns remain for the weekend with the temperature forecast to rise to 42°C in the north of the state.

Queensland firefighters continued to battle fires north of of the capital Brisbane on Bribie Island, with at least 22 fires still burning throughout the state.

New South Wales has 120 fires burning as of Friday with 370,000 hectares of land, 10,000 livestock and one property already destroyed.

"They are very large, all either in excess or very close to 10,000 hectares (and) in some cases 100 kilometres of fireline. That's an awful lot of fireline for firefighters to monitor and obviously that's going to be troubling over today and particularly tomorrow when it will be even hotter," commented Deputy Commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, Rob Rogers briefed reporters on the bushfires at the Rural Fire Service Headquarters on Friday.

One fire at Dean's Gap in New South Wales had authorities concerned due to its proximity to an old military range that contains unexploded ordinances at Tianjara plateau. Firefighters have used earth moving equipment to create containment lines and specialised gel to protect the range.