The Australian military is being deployed to fire-ravaged New South Wales as exhausted crews continue to battle wildfires that are out of control. The additional support comes as the country braces for yet another weekend of record-breaking heat.
In the few last days, a temporary bout of cooler weather gave the firemen a truce, but more than 70 fires are still burning in New South Wales alone, with 30 uncontained. So far the fires have burned around five million hectares of land, killed at least nine people and destroyed nearly 1,000 homes.
"Our crews are fatigued but it is still December which is the mid-point of the fire season, says Mark Gunning, the Operations Manager with the Country Fire Authority in the state of Victoria.
He says firefighters across a number of states are suffering from heat-related illnesses: "Last week we saw temperatures nudge 50ºC across Victoria and mid-40s along the coast."
Gunning adds: "The extreme heat has seen a number of firefighters across all states suffer heat-related illnesses, the work is laborious, it is very hard and we continue to make sure our crews are hydrated and getting the best support possible. We've had fires burning in Australia for over 3 months now, many states helping each other out."
With the high temperatures returning, the authorities are bracing for things to get worse. Sydney is forecast to hit 31ºC on Sunday before reaching 35ºC on Tuesday, while the city's western suburbs could reach 41ºC.
Also, code red has been declared in South Australia to provide extra help for homeless people.
Shane Fitzsimmons is the New South Wales Rural Fire Services Commissioner and he says the danger of wildfires is set to rise:
"We're going to see the temperatures up into the low to mid-40s across a lot of areas, but it's going to bring very dry air as well. And we know the winds are going to start turning around to the west and the northwest, which is why so much work has been going on over this last week while conditions are (still) more mild."
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