In a dramatic twist of fate, Australian fire officials have announced that the threat to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney “has been averted” for the day.
The popular tourist destination has been one of the worst areas hit, causing a state of emergency to be declared.
Locals had been bracing themselves for what was expected to be the worst day of fires yet, but many have now been allowed to return home.
However, the crisis is far from over, as New South Wales’ Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons announced:
“We’re not out of the woods yet. We still have hours to go. There are still fires flaring up, running, impacting on communities this afternoon. There is every prospect we’re going to see some more. There’s every prospect we’re going to see some fires breaking out on the existing fire grounds that we’ve got across the Blue Mountains.”
Some are linking the fires to climate change, blaming the hot conditions and early start to summer for their intensity.
Others, such as Australian prime minister and alleged climate change sceptic, Tony Abbott, claim it’s simply a risk of living in Australia:
“Climate change is real, as I’ve often said, and we should take strong action against it,” adding “But these fires are certainly not a function of climate change, there just a function of life in Australia.”
A devastating combination of high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds has caused the fires to escalate at an alarming rate.
Fire crews have been using tactics such as aggressive back-burning, building lines of containment and strategic planning, in an attempt to contain the blazes.
People are being warned to remain vigilant.