Australia — More than 50 bushfires burned across Queensland on Tuesday, as temperatures soared to 40 degrees Celsius across much of the state.
New records for December were set in the southeast, where Tewantin on the Sunshine Coast hit 39.7C – its hottest December temperature on record.
“Their previous record was set in 1901,” senior weather bureau forecaster Michelle Berry told AAP.
Brisbane reached 38C – the city’s hottest December day since 2001.
“Gold Coast got to 35.1C at Coolangatta, the hottest December reading since 2004,” Ms Berry said.
“Charters Towers got to 40.5C, which is its hottest December day since 2002, and Rockhampton reached 39.1C, its hottest December day since 2008.”
With more dry air forecast to blow across the state on Wednesday, fire danger will remain in the severe to near-extreme range in many areas.
“The highest readings are across the Darling Downs and Granite Belt, into the Lockyer Valley district,” Ms Berry said.
“Some of the highest readings have been occurring around the Oakey, Dalby and Warwick areas, but we’ve also had severe fire danger values further west towards Birdsville, Longreach and up towards Mt Isa.
“We say anything over 50 is severe and we’ve been getting readings of about 85 around the Oakey area, which is near extreme.”
Temperatures are forecast to ease a little on Wednesday, but the bureau says it will still be warmer than the December average.
“That, combined with the dry air and gusty southwest winds, means we will still have enhanced fire dangers through the southern, western and central parts of the state,” she said.
As temperatures peaked in the mid-afternoon, 54 bushfires were burning around Queensland but a few hours later that number had fallen to 35.
A number of people voluntarily evacuated their homes in the face of a large blaze near Miles in south central Queensland as 12 fire crews and two water-bombing aircraft fought to bring it under control.
But Peter Varley from Queensland Fire and Rescue Service said the day could have been a lot worse.
“There has been nothing that’s caused us any major concerns – I think we’ve got off pretty lightly considering the conditions,” Mr Varley told AAP.
“Tomorrow, and possibly on Thursday as well, there’ll be milder temperatures but an increase in the wind speed and low humidity.
“Of the three factors, temperature is our least worry.” The failure was in the forest areas.Advertisement
Following a 10-year strategy, ACT fire managers have created a mosaic across the landscape of different fuel levels, burning at every opportunity.
But forests have been too wet to burn this spring and the past two summers.
A network of 500 fire trails and strategic burns along the north-west urban edge, heavy grazing and extra grass slashing will create a fortress for the territory which forecasters say faces a higher than average risk this summer.
After a fire-fuelled tornado in January 2003 killed four Canberrans and frightened thousands more, CSIRO fire expert Phil Cheney told the subsequent inquiry the fire’s penetration into urban areas under extreme conditions did not reflect a failure of fuel management on the urban interface.