It should bring a moment of pause when Australians describe their fire threat as “catastrophic”. This is the forecast warning for Tuesday in eastern-Australia, as high winds and temperatures above 96 degrees Fahrenheit are expected to fan numerous fires that have already brought life and structure losses. An anticipated afternoon southerly wind shift will cause additional risk.
This is the first time a “catastrophic” wildfire weather warning has been issued in Australia. The new rating system was introduced in 2009 in response to devastating wildfire losses that year. “Catastrophic” reaches around 100 on the scale, which including most of the New South Wales eastern coast, and one area registers at 109 (Aus. Monday 9:33pm post).
Winds are expected on Tuesday in Australia to gust over 50 mph, with conditions likened to the 2009 “Black Saturday” wildfires that claimed 173 lives in the Australian state of Victoria.
Right now, more than 120 wildfires are burning across the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales. More than 3,745 square miles have burned in New South Wales alone, with over 150 structures lost. This weekend, three fatalities were reported - one victim was found in their car, another in their burned home, and a third separately succumbed to burns in the hospital. Two firefighters were also injured when a tree fell on their truck. To date, 35 civilian and 19 total firefighter injuries have been reported.
Over 55 wildfires in Queensland have consumed 17 structures thus far.
To follow the current wildfires in New South Wales and Queensland:
- You can view them on the incident maps and click through for specific information from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service and the Queensland Rural Fire Service.
- The New South Wales RFS and the Queensland RFS Twitter feeds are sharing emergency updates and wildfire news.
- In response to the catastrophic fire weather warning and a declared state of emergency in New South Wales, the Sydney Morning Herald is providing open access for all readers to their wildfire coverage during the crisis.
- The Sydney Morning Herald live feed blog can be read here and their listing of wildfire topics and articles can be found here. Their Twitter feed has breaking news as well.
The resiliency of Australian residents will once again be tested in the coming days and months but there is no doubt as to their ability to stand up to the challenge. Check back here for more information as these wildfires unfold.