Australia swelters through heat wave as bushfire risk grows


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Australia swelters through heat wave as bushfire risk grows

READY. New South Wales Rural Fire Service firetruck is seen at a hazard reduction burn site in Sydney, Australia, September 10, 2023.

Cordelia Hsu/REUTERS

(1st UPDATE) New South Wales fire authorities say that a total fire ban is in place for large swaths of the state, including Sydney, given 'very hot, dry and windy conditions' forecast

SYDNEY, Australia – Australia’s southeast on Saturday, December 9, sweated through a heat wave that raised the risk of bushfires and led authorities to ban fires in large parts of New South Wales state.

The nation’s weather forecaster predicted a maximum temperature in Sydney, the capital of Australia’s most populous state New South Wales, on Saturday of 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), almost 15 degrees above the average December high for the city.

At Observatory Hill in the centre of Sydney, the capital of News South Wales, the temperature was 38.9 C (102 F) at 1 pm (0200 GMT) on Saturday, according to forecaster data.

Speaking in Sydney, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said it was “a time to ensure that we look after each other and stay safe.”

“Today in Sydney, and in other parts of the east coast, it’s a reminder that there just might be something in this climate change stuff,” Albanese said, according to an official transcript.

The heat heightens the risk of bushfires in an already high-risk fire season during Australia’s December-February summer due to an El Niño weather event, typically associated with extremes such as wildfires, cyclones and droughts.

New South Wales fire authorities said on social media platform X that a total fire ban was in place for large swaths of the state, including Sydney, given “very hot, dry and windy conditions” forecast.

There were 71 grass and bushfires – 21 of them uncontained – burning across New South Wales on Saturday, the state’s Rural Fire Service said.

In a warning on Friday the weather forecaster said “severe heat wave conditions” would continue across much of New South Wales into next week, with peak temperatures predicted through the weekend.

At Sydney’s Coogee Beach, head lifeguard Clive Stiff said the extreme heat meant a busy Saturday for those on patrol.

“We’re mostly worried about sun safety and hydration, both for members of the public and members of the Patrol of course,” Stiff said.

Beachgoer Carley Carr took a more relaxed view of the heat.

“It’s about time that we had a good summer. So we’ll be down at the beach probably early and staying inside for middle of the day,” Carr said.

Australia’s last two fire seasons have been quiet compared with the catastrophic 2019-2020 “Black Summer” that destroyed an area the size of Turkey and killed 33 people. –

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