Dozens of wild fires burned across broad swaths of Australia’s east and west on Saturday and firefighters scrambled to shore up defenses ahead of hotter weather and stronger winds expected to bring more danger in the coming days.
Temperatures of above 40 degrees Celsius (104°F) were forecast for parts of Western Australia on Sunday before spreading east next week and worsening conditions in New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland, two states already stricken by devastating bushfires.
Australia’s bushfire are a common and deadly threat but the early outbreak this year in the southern spring has already claimed several lives and destroyed more than 300 homes over the past week.
Severe fire danger conditions are expected to continue in NSW on Sunday where about 60 bush and grass fires are still burning, according to NSW Rural Fire Service.
Firefighters strengthened containment lines by back burning around the Gospers Mountain fire, which is blazing across more than 112,000 acres (175 square miles) near Sydney’s northwest outskirts, but the fire is yet to be contained. Back burns are fires deliberately lit to clear dry undergrowth.
More homes are expected to be lost.
“Even if we bring in an extra 1,000 firefighters, we still don’t have enough trucks and firefighters for every single home in New South Wales,” NSW Rural Fire Service Inspector Ben Shepherd told Sky News.
Most national parks on the mid-to-north coast of the state, including in the northern Blue Mountains will remain closed until further notice as fire danger remains very high to severe, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage said on Twitter.
NSW Police said in a statement that a 51-year-old man has been charged after allegedly lighting a fire which is now out of control in the state’s Northern Tablelands.
Police alleged that “the man lit the fire as an attempt to back burn for the protection of a cannabis crop and perceived benefit from recovery work after the fire and made no attempt to control the blaze,” they said in a statement.
In New South Wales, four people have died and 303 homes have been destroyed since Nov. 9.
This year’s early bushfire season in the country is expected to be long and brutal as a three-year drought has left broad swathes of Australia’s east and west more susceptible to fire.
In Queensland, there were several major fires on Saturday still of concern and gusty winds were expected on Sunday, worsening conditions after 16 homes were destroyed in the past week.
“Most of the state will experience high and very high conditions this weekend,” Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said on Twitter. “Keep on keeping on – we’ll get through this together.”