Australia– As bushfires burn across three states and temperatures soar past 40 degrees in areas with catastrophic fire warnings, some residents say they are too afraid to let down their guard.
Dozens of fires are burning in the north and central west of New South Wales and on Sydney’s northern outskirts.
Two homes are on fire in New South Wales – one at Castle Cove on Sydney’s north shore and at Campbelltown, in Sydney’s south-west.
The NSW Fire Brigade believes the homes may have caught fire after being struck by lightning.
Superintendent Ian Krimmer from the Fire Brigade says fire crews are on the scene and there are no reports of any injuries.
Five blazes are still causing concern at Inverell, Narrabri in the Hawkesbury region and two at Glen Innes.
The fire at Inverell, which is burning about six kilometres away from the village of Gilgai, has burnt out about 2,600 hectares of scrub over several days.
One woman living in the area who did not wish to be named was frustrated at the lack of communication with local residents.
She says she is worried she may not be given enough notice to defend her 11-acre property and livestock.
“We’re about 2.2 kilometres away [from the fire]. All we can see is smoke,” she said.
“We have the sprinklers going non-stop. All we can do is pray. I’m exhausted and terrified to sleep. We all are.”
Bracing for fire
Pamela Ellis lives about 2.5 kilometres outside of Gilgai. She says the fire front is further away from her property today and it seems as though fire crews are managing to contain it.
But she says residents have been told via radio to activate their bushfire safety plan.
“We’ve been told to have anything we want to take with us if we have to leave and making sure the house is locked up and possibly fill our gutters with water,” she said.
“But water’s a problem out here with us though. Some people have town water – we do which is really good – but a lot of these people who live further back in the bush don’t, and most of us have got dry dams.”
Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says that with today’s conditions it is not safe for residents to defend homes under threat.
“Simply be smart. Plan your day. Plan to go to town. Go to a friend’s place who doesn’t live in a bushfire-prone area. Go to the pool,” he said.
“Do something for the heat of the day to avoid being in a bushfire-prone area, just to give you the best chance of survival.
“The difficulty in catastrophic conditions is that homes may not provide the safety they would at lower levels.”
Commissioner Fitzsimmons says the weather there is creating very dangerous conditions, but residents and fire-crews in the area have been lucky so far.
“But clearly we’ve got several hours to run yet and with some of the frontal activity moving through parts of south-western New South Wales, we are clearly concerned about dry lightning and the potential for fire ignitions as the result of that storm activity,” he said.
There are 200 firefighters on the ground and more teams are on standby across the state, while almost 20 aircraft are helping battle the blazes.
Strong winds have helped push the warning to catastrophic for the lower central west plains, northern and southern Riverina, south-western and far western regions. Elsewhere the danger is extreme or severe.
Total fire bans remain in place across much of the state until midnight tomorrow night.
Homes under threat
A number of houses and shacks at Dolphin Sands near Swansea on Tasmania’s east coast are under threat from a bushfire which is being fanned by strong winds.