Unprecedented bushfires rage across New South Wales, Australia


A series of unprecedented bushfires are burning across New South Wales, southeastern Australia on Friday, November 8, 2019. Over 1 000 firefighters have been battling more than 90 blazes, 17 of which are emergency-level, and strong winds.

Heat up to 35 °C (95 °F) have exacerbated the fires, many of which are in drought-affected areas.

"We are in uncharted territory," said Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. "We have never seen this many fires concurrently at emergency warning level."

There are reports of residents trapped in their homes in several places, but the crew was unable to reach them yet dude to the strength of the flames.

The Rural Fire Service tweeted on Friday that "due to the size and speed of the fires we couldn't get to everyone, even by road or helicopter."

Fires are raging across about 1 000 km (621 miles) of Australia's coast, widening the emergency response. Warnings were also issued on Friday for bushfires blazing in Queensland and Western Australia. People are urged to seek shelter from fires.

Along with more than 1 000 firefighters, authorities have also deployed 70 aircraft to save as many people as possible with around 92 000 residents affected, according to Fitzsimmons.

Photos on social media showed bright orange skies and thick smoke blanketing towns throughout the region, with some locals describing the situation as apocalyptic.

As of 17:30 LT on November 8, 57 fires are burning out of control. "If you are near these fires, your life is at risk and you need to take action to protect your life," the NSW RFS said on Twitter.

The worst-hit areas include Tenterfield, Armidale, Clarence Valley, Port Macquarie, Nambucca, and Kempsey.

According to the fire service, a number of blazes are becoming more intense and more dangerous that some were producing their own weather conditions. Fire clouds– which can spawn lightning without rain– were also developing.

"These [fire clouds] are extremely dangerous. Do not be caught in the open," the NSW RFS warned.

Major roads and highways have been closed, and motorists have been advised to avoid non-essential travel at the moment. Moreover, at least five schools have also closed.

"To have 17 fires concurrently burning at [an] emergency alert level is without precedent in the state of New South Wales," Fitzsimmons said.  "We've simply never had this number of fires burning at the same time."

The fire service has received reports of injuries and damage to establishments. According to Fitzsimmons, the high concentration of fire and extreme volatility and extraordinary fire behavior was being driven by a drought-stricken landscape and hot, dry, windy conditions.

As of 23:00 LT, the 12 emergency-level fires were in Bills Crossing Crowdy, Carrai Creek, Coombes Gap Complex, Gulf Road, Hillville Road, Kangawalla, Kian Road, Liberation Trail, Rumba dump, Stockyard Flat, Toorumbee Complex, and Wandsworth.

78 fires are blazing in total, destroying several properties. No fatalities have been reported.

The Pacific Highway remains closed between Taree and Bulahdelah, and at Port Macquarie between the Oxley Highway and Hastings River Drive Four of the state's 21 fire areas will have total fire bans on November 9.


Image credit: NASA Aqua/MODIS

As of around 02:00 LT November 9, an update from the NSW RFS said 12 fires remain at the emergency warning, with firefighters still working.

Featured image credit: JMA/Himawari-8, RAMMB/CIRA

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One Comment

  1. On the plus side, this brush can only burn once. By the time summer arrives there won’t be as much danger because of these earlier burns. Australia has always been known as a land of extremes.

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