As firefighters battle blazes, Aussies are being warned that the horrors of last year’s devastating bushfires could happen again.
As firefighters battle blazes, Aussies are being warned that the horrors of last year’s devastating bushfires could happen again.

‘Here we go again’: 42 fires burning

Australia's devastating bushfire season has well and truly arrived - something the nation was brutally reminded of over the weekend when a number of blazes quickly burned out of control.

Aussies sweltered through a record-breaking heatwave and battled gale-force winds across parts of the country.

In NSW, November heat records tumbled as most of the state saw temperatures soar above 40C.

The wild and hot conditions triggered a number of blazes - with 62 grass and bushfires burning in NSW alone on Saturday and Sunday.

The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) is currently dealing with 42 fires, all sitting at advice level.

The bushfires burning across NSW. Picture: RFS
The bushfires burning across NSW. Picture: RFS

 

 

Speaking at the weekend, NSW Police and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott urged people not to think that the horrors of last fire season couldn't be repeated.

"Here we go again. We have of course seen the first weekend of really significant bushfire activity," Mr Elliott said.

"I want to make sure the message is very, very clear. What we are seeing this weekend is pretty consistent with what we will potentially see over the course of this fire season.

"We cannot fall into a false sense of security. The community out there, unfortunately, thinks after the last season we are not at risk of bushfire.

"The reality is 90 per cent of the state is still untouched by bushfire."

Crews rush to a bushfire in western Sydney. Picture: James Gourley/NCA NewsWire
Crews rush to a bushfire in western Sydney. Picture: James Gourley/NCA NewsWire

 

RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers said the wet winter had actually made things more difficult for firefighters with the months of grass growth triggering "dangerous" conditions.

"It's a very different season," he said.

"What we haven't had for the last few years is grass because we have been in a drought so there's been no grass to obviously grow or burn. That's changed significantly.

"There is record crops for farmers and that gives an indication of what is growing - particularly west of the Ranges.

"These grass fires are quite dangerous so you need to report them as soon as you see the fire."

A bushfire in Northmead, in Sydney's west, came dangerously close to houses, destroying at least one home and requiring waterbombing to bring it under control.

 

A house on fire in Northmead, Sydney. Picture: James Gourley/NCA NewsWire
A house on fire in Northmead, Sydney. Picture: James Gourley/NCA NewsWire

 

But NSW wasn't the only state to battle bushfires this weekend.

The picturesque Fraser Island, off the coast of Queensland, was forced to evacuate tourists after a bushfire, that has been burning out of control for weeks, came dangerously close to its biggest resort.

 

The fire burning near Cathedral’s camping ground on Fraser Island. Picture: News Regional Media
The fire burning near Cathedral’s camping ground on Fraser Island. Picture: News Regional Media

 

The fire has been burning since October. Picture: News Regional Media
The fire has been burning since October. Picture: News Regional Media

Kingfisher Bay Resort will close until at least December 14 as dozens of firefighters deal with a blaze now burning less than 4km from the sprawling accommodation.

"We value your loyalty and support during this time, and please note that our reservations team are busy contacting all guests with bookings over the coming days," the resort said.

"Guests will be contacted in order of date of arrival."

The fire, which is believed to have started from an illegal campfire, has been burning since the beginning of October and has destroyed more than 40 per cent of the island's bush.

Waterbombing aircraft attacked the fire, which is now burning on two fronts, over the weekend.


But relief for the firefighters won't come anytime soon with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting the severe heatwave that NSW and Victoria sweltered through over the weekend will move up to Queensland and worsen in the coming days, with the hottest day likely to be Wednesday.

In South Australia, a total fire ban was declared over the weekend as the state also grappled with a record-breaking heatwave.

Temperature records were "shattered" on Saturday with Marree, in the state's north, seeing the mercury hit a whopping 47.5C.

A watch and act message was issued for a fire burning in Uleybury, less than an hour north of Adelaide, over the weekend as the blaze ripped through the area.

Firefighters had managed to bring things under control by 6pm last night.

And on Friday, a rapidly moving grass fire burnt through more than 650 hectares in Templers before firefighters and an earthmoving machine were able to contain it by the afternoon.

Stock on the edge of the Freeling/Templers bushfire on Friday. Picture: Kelly Barnes
Stock on the edge of the Freeling/Templers bushfire on Friday. Picture: Kelly Barnes

The Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for December 2020 to February 2021, a report compiled by The Bushfire and Natural Hazard Cooperative Research Centre, detailed what kind of summer Aussies could be in for.

The report, released last week, echoed the comments from Commissioner Rogers, saying wetter weather had elevated the bushfire risk.

The main fire risk for Australians will be grass fires in the east of the country and bushfires in the west, the report said.

Weather conditions for the year to date, and the summer climate signals, mean that large parts of NSW west of the Great Dividing Range face above-normal fire conditions, as well as grassland areas of the ACT and into northeastern Victoria.

Grass and crop fires are the main concern in these locations for the summer months as the growth dries out in the warmer weather.

Western Australia has largely missed out on the rainfall in 2020 and conditions are very dry, with parts of the south and south west coasts expecting above normal fire conditions through summer.

 

Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook. Picture: Bushfire and Natural Hazard CRC.
Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook. Picture: Bushfire and Natural Hazard CRC.

 

"The grass might be green in your area right now, but it will not take long for it to dry out once the heat of summer arrives," CRC Research Director Dr John Bates said.

"Grass fires can start quickly and spread rapidly, fanned by strong winds. They can catch you out and they can do plenty of damage.

"Despite the prospect of a wetter summer, a few hot and windy days can make a big difference to the fire risk, especially in grass and crop areas," he said.

"Our research shows that everyone needs to be prepared for fire - from the farmer on the land, to holiday-makers, to those who live on the urban fringes of our cities and towns.

"When the wind is up and the weather is hot, fires will occur right across Australia."

 

 

 

 

Originally published as 'Here we go again': 42 fires burning



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