Australia fears a “mega-fire” could form from three massive fires burning in the mountains near Sydney. Forecasts called for high winds and dangerously hot weather as firefighters worked furiously to contain the blazes.
More than 200 homes have already been destroyed in New South Wales since Thursday, and authorities worry hundreds more could go up in flames before the fires are contained.
NBC News reports that New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons explained, “The forecast and scenario for [Wednesday] is about as bad as it gets. There is a very real potential for more loss of homes and loss of life.”
One man already died of a heart attack while trying to protect his home from the blaze. While sixty fires burned on Tuesday, the largest and most dangerous ones called the Blue Mountains their home. Considering Wednesday’s forecast, firefighters expect the wildfires to flare on Wednesday.
Along with the potential for a mega-fire to break out, CNN notes that officials also warned residents that a smoke cloud settling over Sydney could affect their health. Stuart Midgely, a New South Wales Rural Fire Service incident controller and the top coordinator for the Blue Mountains blaze, explained of the situation:
“The fuel bed is very, very dry. We’ve had a series of high wind, high temperature, low humidity days. That cause fires to run quite hard. For instance, the fire that started last Thursday ran 35 kilometers in one day.”
Midgely added that crews on Wednesday will work “to get containment lines in as deep as we can before the bad weather comes back and potentially blows the fires back up again.”
Local officials are especially worried about the three large fires spreading through the Blue Mountains. Alex Chesser, a spokesman for the fire service, explained, “If they do join up and push to the south, there is the potential that many heavily inhabited suburbs along the Great Western Highway in our Blue Mountains region may be directly impacted by fire.”
A state of emergency was already issued for the area, allowing firefighters and police the authority to carry out measures like cutting off water, power, and gas, and ordering mandatory evacuations for areas at risk from the wildfires. Authorities already ordered Blue Mountains schools closed and evacuated nursing homes in the area.
Australia’s wildfires came early this season and have already burned through more than 300,000 acres and have a perimeter of about 990 miles.
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