Australia could eclipse its record for the hottest day in history for the third consecutive day as the searing heatwave and 100km/h winds fuel one of the nation’s worst ever bushfire crises.
Melbourne is forecast to nudge 44C on Friday, while temperatures in Adelaide are predicted to reach 46C – toppling the record set on Thursday for the city’s hottest December day.
Sydney will see a brief relief in temperatures after hitting 45C in the far west but then soar back up to 42C on Saturday as the wall of heat hovering over Australia continues to send records tumbling.
The soaring heat could mean Friday’s national average maximum temperature is even higher than Tuesday’s record-breaking 40.7C and Wednesday’s 41.9C.
The NSW bushfire crisis turned deadly on Thursday night, when two volunteer firefighters were killed after an RFS truck rolled after a tree fell down in front of it.
Paramedics rushed to Wilson Drive in Buxton, 150km south-west of Sydney, just before 11.30pm on Thursday when the crash happened as firefighters battled the Green Wattle Creek blaze.
Both the driver and the front passenger died at the scene, while three other firefighters were injured and treated by paramedics.
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An RFS firefighter is seen at a home along the Old Hume Highway near the town of Tahmoor as the Green Wattle Creek Fire rages in the background
Thursday’s average temperature is yet to be analysed, but could also reach record-breaking levels when its results are announced on Friday.
‘It is possible that record … may continue to be broken for the next couple of days,’ Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Kimba Wong told The Courier Mail.
Firefighters are bracing for a disastrous end to the week, with the New South Wales Southern Highlands region already reeling from the loss of at least 40 homes to the Green Wattle Creek Fire, which continues to burn out of control.
The blaze, 150km south-west of Sydney, as well as the Gospers Mountain mega fire, are both burning at an emergency warning level – while more than 100 other fires burn across the state.
But Queensland’s Fire and Emergency Service have warned they will be in no position to send in reinforcements to their southern neighbours as they too face worsening bushfire conditions in the surging heat.
A severe fire warning has been issued for the Darling Downs and Granite Belt, the Central Highlands and Coalfields for Friday and Sunday while the rest of the state remains at high and very high danger levels.
The potentially record-breaking day could see Melbourne tip 44C on the thermostat on Friday, while the temperature in Adelaide has been predicted to reach 46C
The record-breaking temperatures in South Australia could also lead to catastrophic fire conditions, the state’s fire chiefs have warned.
‘If fires break out in these conditions, they will be dangerous and fast-moving,’ the deputy chief officer of the South Australian Country Fire Service Andrew Stark told
‘They are the kind of conditions which are dangerous for our firefighters and could see properties and sometimes lives lost.
‘If we have widespread lightning, there will be more fires than our aircraft can handle.’
Nullarbor broke the record for the hottest-ever December day when it hit 49.9C on Thursday afternoon, while Ceduna on the Eyre Peninsula recorded its hottest day in more than 80 years at 48.8C.
The 48C-plus heat in Port Augusta was so extreme this week the city’s council said four of its roads were already showing ‘signs of bleeding’ as the bitumen began to melt under the searing temperatures.
Firefighters in the Blue Mountains are meanwhile desperately battling to contain a blaze – which on Friday crossed the Bells Line of Road – burning near the outskirts of the town of Bilpin
The 46C forecast in Melbourne would mean the city could sweat through its hottest day since Black Saturday in 2009, when the temperature reached 46.4C.
Melbourne Yarra Trams has also advised that services will be altered on Friday to cater for the heat, given the potential for significant disruptions to services.
Emergency management commissioner Andrew Crisp asked Victorians to be bushfire ready.
‘If you leave when you see the fires, it might be too late,’ Mr Crisp said.
‘It will be a tough and challenging day for the state. We’re doing everything we can, what are you doing?’
Forty fires have been burning across Victoria this week, with more than 50,000 hectares of land scorched by four fires in Gippsland in the past month.
A front moving across Western Australia is expected to bring an end in sight to this week’s heatwave by this weekend, with the cool change arriving in NSW in time for Christmas.
Friday’s national average maximum temperature even higher than Tuesday’s record-breaking 40.7C and Wednesday’s 41.9C (pictured German tourists Julia Wasmiller (L) and Jessica Pryor pose at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair in Sydney, wearing face masks due to heavy smoke)
The 48C-plus heat in Port Augusta was so extreme this week the city’s council said four of its roads were already showing ‘signs of bleeding’ as the bitumen began to melt under the searing temperatures
The RFS expressed their devastation after losing two brave volunteer firefighters on Thursday night.
‘The Service’s thoughts are with all the firefighter’s family, friends and fellow brigade members,’ it said in a statement.
‘This is an absolutely devastating event in what has already been an incredibly difficult day and fire season.’
Other firefighters were severely burned as they battled the Gospers Mountain fire in the Blue Mountains, which are edging closer to Sydney.
NSW RFS captain Jon Russell said he thought he was going to die as his crew were trapped in their melting fire truck by a sharp change in wind direction.
‘As I got out of the driver’s seat, they came back screaming ”Get back in the truck get back in the truck”,’ he said told The Daily Telegraph.
‘We stuck hard up against the garage because it was the only thing I could see… it was unbelievable the speed that moved at. Of all the days I have been a firefighter, today is the only day I thought it would be my last.’
A property was flattened in Buxton, 150 kilometres southwest of Sydney as residents were told it was too late to leave
Balmoral – home to about 700 people in the New South Wales Southern Highlands – and several other tiny towns were ravaged by the 149,000 hectare megafire early on Thursday afternoon.
Two firefighters had to be placed in induced comas after being overrun by flames at Bargo, while another three were injured.
A 56-year-old man suffering burns to his face and legs and a 28-year-old woman with burns to her face both had to be airlifted to Concord Hospital in ‘serious conditions’.
A swing set appeared to be the only remaining structure on a fire-ravaged Buxton property
Burnt-out cars sat in fire-ravaged bushland in Buxton as fire threatened multiple communities south-west of Sydney
In Balmoral and the neighbouring town of Bargo, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said 20 homes have been destroyed, while another 20 were lost in Buxton
The devastating blazes have prompted NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian to declare a state of emergency for the next seven days and urged any travellers to reassess their holiday plans.
‘As bad as conditions are today, Saturday is going to be worse,’ NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Thursday afternoon.
‘If you are told a road is closed, if you are told not to travel please take the advice, this is a state of emergency, we don’t take it lightly.
A truck caught ablaze as the devastating fires ripped through NSW’s southern highlands on Thursday
A tree is engulfed by flames after 45C temperatures and 100km/h winds created a perfect storm in the NSW Blue Mountains
‘It’s normally a special time of the year, but we are under extreme circumstance and we just need everybody to listen to the warnings.’
The Bureau of Meteorology said the worst is still yet to come with a slight relief in temperatures on Friday before an ‘exceptionally hot air mass’ blasts New South Wales on Saturday.
‘Saturday has the potential to be a very challenging day for NSW and ACT residents, with severe to extreme heatwave conditions, deteriorating air quality and gusty wind changes which will lead to dangerous fire conditions,’ meteorologist Andre Peace told The Daily Telegraph.
In Balmoral and the neighbouring town of Bargo, authorities said 20 homes have been destroyed, while another 20 were lost in Buxton.
One woman who was loading horses into a float as she fled Bargo – where at least six homes have been lost – said both her animals and residents of the town were ‘in panic mode’.
‘Property can be saved but it’s life that can,’ she told
Even more crushing for the firefighters battling to keep the bushfires under control was the fact many of them lost their own homes to the blazes.
The bushfire left behind just a smouldering wreckage of this home after striking the township of Bargo – with one resident said they were shocked the fire had reached suburbia
A ball of flamed consumed this home in Buxton, which neighbours fire-ravaged Balmoral in NSW’s Southern Highlands,
‘They’re absolutely shattered – they are devastated by loss but it goes that little further when it’s your own home or the colleague you’ve got sitting on the fire truck next to you,’ NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told the
Adding to the headaches for fire fighters was a southerly change on Thursday which pushed the blaze towards southern Sydney suburbs including Tahmoor.
Residents in Tahmoor, Pheasants Nest, Buxton, Couridjah, Thirlmere, Bargo, Balmoral and Yanderra were told it was too late to leave.
The mayor of Wollondilly Shire Matthew Deeth said the situation was ‘as serious as it gets’.
Residents watched on as the out-of-control bushfire near Bargo sent thick plumes of smoke into the sky
Two major fire fronts have converged in Balmoral – which have been fanned by the winds exceeding 100 km/h
‘Our evacuation centre at Picton Bowling Club is at capacity and our RFS volunteers are stretched incredibly thin,’ he told
300 people were on Thursday night sheltering inside RSL clubs at Piction and nearby Mittagong.
One resident said they were shocked the fire had reached suburbia – with the collection of small towns less than 50km away from Campbelltown on Sydney’s south-western fringe.
By 7pm on Thursday evening, the state’s Rural Fire Service extended the same warning to the towns of Newnes Junction, Dargan and Clarence in the Blue Mountains.
A property smoulders at Balmoral after the flames left a trail of destruction in their wake on Thursday
While conditions are expected to ease slightly overnight, Rural Fire Services (RFS) crews will be under the pump for days to come with conditions expected to hit 42C on Saturday
A 56-year-old man suffering burns to his face and legs and a 28-year-old woman with burns to her face both had to be airlifted to Concord Hospital in ‘serious conditions’
Firefighters were unable to save this home at Bargo, believed to be one of a few dozen lost on a horror day of fire across NSW
A firefighter battles against the blazes in Balmoral as NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian placed the state into a state of emergency for the next seven days
A home is claimed by the Green Wattle Creek Fire at Buxton and NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian warned conditions on Saturday could lead to further devestation
A wall of smoke and fire confronts a member of the Rural Fire Service at Green Wattle in the Blue Mountains
Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told media the fire was growing at such a rapid rate that it was currently hard to get exact details on properties lost.
‘I suspect we’re probably talking in the vicinity of dozens. What that is in terms of homes, sheds, facilities, I just simply don’t have that detail at this stage,’ he said.
‘It’s too fast and unfolding as we speak.’
Up to 40 homes have been lost and several firefighters rushed to hospital suffering severe burns
Bushland in Balmoral was smouldering by Thursday evening after the bushfire ripped through the region 150km south-west of Sydney
‘We just do not have the capacity to send people to help at the moment,’ a Queensland Fire and Emergency Service spokesman said.
‘In fact, we may have to seek help from other states if conditions worsen in Queensland.’
Conditions are also worsening at Currowan, on the NSW South Coast, where at 3pm a fire was upgraded to watch and act stage.
A firefighter wets down the roof of a property at Tahmoor as the enormous blaze approaches
Earlier on Thursday, Ms Berejiklian declared a state of emergency, as temperatures in Sydney’s far west hit 45C and 39C in Sydney’s CBD.
There are concerns the Gospers Mountain fire, ravaging the northern end of the Blue Mountains National Park, could meet the Green Wattle Creek blaze to the south.
Firefighters battled in vain to stop the fire from jumping the Bells Line of Road at Berambing – which runs east to west through the national park.
Balmoral, 150 kilometres south of Sydney, has been one of the worst hit towns in Thursday fires
An RFS member assesses the extent of the fire as he tries desperately to save a property in the NSW Blue Mountains
‘It roared over the road, destroying power lines and cutting the various Fire Brigade resources in half stuck on either side of the fire,’
The Blue Mountains train line has been closed in its outer-western stretch between Lithgow and Mount Victoria as a fire threatens the rail corridor in between the two stations at Bell.
Those in the town of Bilpin, meanwhile, are bracing for the fire to reach their homes.
During a press conference, the NSW Premier said the ‘decision to declare a state of emergency is not taken lightly.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian declared a state of emergency earlier on Thursday, ahead of what was predicted to be one of the most dangerous bushfire days in the state’s history
With dozens of properties now lost in the fire, firefighters have turned their focus to protecting humans and livestock
On a day where temperatures were forecast to hit 45C, winds in the Blue Mountains reached 100km/h
‘You only declare states of emergency when it’s absolutely necessary and on expert advice from commissioners,’ Ms Berejiklian said.
It is the second state of emergency she has declared since the start of this year’s horror bushfire season. Six people have died and more than 800 homes have been lost.
Ms Berejiklian said they weren’t expecting conditions to be as catastrophic as they were during the previous state of emergency on November 11.
Prior to the November 11 declaration, NSW had not faced a state of emergency since October 2013.
The announcement relinquishes decision making powers from the NSW government and allows Commissioner Fitzsimmons more control over his team of firefighters.
For the next seven days during the state of emergency, he has the ability to control and coordinate the allocation of government resources, close roads and evacuate residents.
A bushfire burns along the Old Hume Highway near the town of Tahmoor, south of Sydney, on Thursday afternoon
Pictured: Bushfires ravage Bells Line of Road at Mt Wilson in the Blue Mountains
Pictured: The out-of-control Green Wattle Creek bushfire burning near Braddocks Rd, Werombi, on December 5
This marks just the fifth state of emergency declared since 2006.
The floods in 2012, both in Queensland and NSW, warranted an emergency warning, as did bushfires in October 2013.
Other natural disasters, including the Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, didn’t result in an emergency warning.
The Sydney Opera House is seen as commuters ride the Manly Ferry during a day of predicted hot weather in Sydney
What does a state of emergency mean?
Declaring a state of emergency relinquishes decision making powers from the NSW government and allows RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons more control over his team of firefighters.
For the next seven days during the state of emergency, can now control and coordinate the allocation of government resources, close roads and evacuate residents.
Ms Fitzsimmons now has the ability to:
- Control and coordinate the allocation of government resources
- Evacuate people from property within declared areas
- Close roads and thoroughfares to traffic
- Pull down or shore up infrastructure at risk of collapse
- Shut down utilities in the declared area including electricity, gas, oil and water
- Enter or take possession of property for emergency response
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian held a press conference held on Thursday morning, where she said the ‘decision to declare a state of emergency is not taken lightly.
‘You only declare states of emergency when it’s absolutely necessary and on expert advice from commissioners.’
It is the second state of emergency she has declared since the start of this year’s horror bushfire season, which has seen six people die and more than 800 homes lost.
Ms Berejiklian said they weren’t expecting conditions to be as catastrophic as they were during the previous state of emergency.
The sun shines through bushfire haze next to the Sydney Opera House on Thursday morning
Pictured: Plumes of smoke fill the air and linger above the Blue Mountains
The Gospers Mountain fire, burning in the Wollemi National Park area in the northern Blue Mountains, is more than 415,000 hectares in size and raging out of control
A firefighter works at the scene of the Gospers Mountain bushfire on December 15
THE FORECAST IN YOUR CITY
THURSDAY: Min 19. Max 35. Cloudy.
FRIDAY: Min 20. Max 26. Cloudy.
SATURDAY: Min 21. Max 37. Sunny.
SUNDAY: Min 20. Max 24. Cloudy.
THURSDAY: Min 20. Max 30. Sunny.
FRIDAY: Min 19. Max 33. Sunny.
SATURDAY: Min 21. Max 33. Sunny.
SUNDAY: Min 27. Max 35. Sunny.
THURSDAY: Min 23. Max 41. Sunny.
FRIDAY: Min 28. Max 44. Sunny.
SATURDAY: Min 18. Max 25. Cloudy.
SUNDAY: Min 12. Max 28. Cloudy.
THURSDAY: Min 19. Max 26. Cloudy.
FRIDAY: Min 17. Max 26. Sunny.
SATURDAY: Min. 17. Max 34. Sunny.
SUNDAY: Min. 20. Max 30. Sunny.
THURSDAY: Min 19. Max 23. Cloudy.
FRIDAY: Min 14. Max 41. Sunny.
SATURDAY: Min 19. Max 23. Cloudy.
SUNDAY: Min 12. Max 20. Cloudy.
THURSDAY: Min 18. Max 41. Sunny.
FRIDAY: Min 14. Max 39. Sunny.
SATURDAY: Min 17. Max 43. Sunny.
SUNDAY: Min 15. Max 33. Sunny.
THURSDAY: Min 26. Max 36. Showers.
FRIDAY: Min 27. Max 35. Showers.
SATURDAY: Min 26. Max 35. Cloudy.
SUNDAY: Min 26. Max 34. Cloudy.
THURSDAY: Min 15. Max 23. Cloudy.
FRIDAY: Min 10. Max 33. Sunny.
SATURDAY: Min 17. Max 23. Cloudy.
SUNDAY: Min 10. Max 20. Cloudy.
Source: Bureau of Meteorology
An extreme fire danger rating has been issued for the Greater Sydney, Illawarra/Shoalhaven and Southern Ranges areas, while all other areas are rated at high, very high or severe levels. ‘Any fire that starts and takes hold will threaten lives and homes,’ NSW RFS said. Pictured: Smoke from Gospers Mountain fire
‘Conditions will be dangerous due to high temperatures, strong and gusty winds and low humidity,’ the NSW RFS said ahead of Thursday with this ‘prediction’ map
Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned the state would face significant bushfire risk on Thursday and Saturday with the potential for ‘exceedingly concerning’ winds to blow embers well ahead of fire fronts. Pictured: Green Wattle Creek bushfire
At midday on Thursday, northwesterly winds will sweep the Gospers Mountain blaze in the path of the Green Wattle Creek fire at windspeeds of 40km/h. By 2pm – when the sweltering heat is expected to be at its worse – both fires will be pushed towards Sydney. Pictured: Gospers Mountain fire
Six people have died and some 768 homes have been destroyed by bushfires this fire season. Pictured: Gospers Mountain fire
The Gospers Mountain blaze (pictured) destroyed up to 20 buildings in the upper Blue Mountains on the weekend after firefighters lost control of a backburning operation and the fire jumped containment lines
Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said complacency is the biggest threat.
‘Just because you haven’t seen a fire at the end of your street, just because you can’t see smoke in your suburb, doesn’t mean that you are not at risk,’ he told reporters.
There will be 3000 firefighters working on Saturday, the minister said.
The Gospers Mountain blaze destroyed up to 20 buildings in the upper Blue Mountains on the weekend after firefighters lost control of a backburning operation and the fire jumped containment lines.
Authority’s warnings amid NSW heatwave
The state’s Heatwave Sub Plan has been activated following the prediction of heatwave conditions across NSW this week, with temperatures predicted to reach 40 degrees in Sydney – higher in other areas.
It is recognised that heatwaves have an impact on multiple facets of public safety, including health, animal welfare, energy infrastructure, roads and transport, as well as increased risk of fire.
The activation of the Heatwave Sub Plan allows certain government agencies to ensure increased coordination in emergency management.
The Bureau of Meteorology is predicting temperatures will peak on Saturday (21 December 2019), with Sydney CBD expected to reach the mid-30s, while Western Sydney and many parts of inland Regional NSW will experience temperatures in the low to mid 40s.
Further, the Bureau of Meteorology has advised that the smoke in eastern NSW will gradually clear with the southerly change, but some inland areas may see an increase in smoke due to south-easterly winds.
Saturday is expected to be a busy day throughout the Sydney Metropolitan area with Christmas shopping, beach travel and Carols in the Domain, and it is also expected many people may set off for their Christmas/school holidays.
We are asking the public to adhere to heat messages, keep their cool, and look out for each other.
The following message details important whole-of-government information for the people of NSW.
Rural Fire Service:
We continue to face an unprecedented level of bush fire danger. An extreme fire danger rating has been issued for the Greater Sydney, Illawarra/Shoalhaven and Southern Ranges areas. All other areas are rated at high, very high or severe levels.
Any fire that starts and takes hold will threaten lives and homes.
A Total Fire Ban is in place for the whole of the state.
Under these conditions, some fires may start and spread so quickly there is little time for a warning, so do not wait and see.
There are simply not enough fire trucks for every house. If you call for help, you may not get it.
Do not expect a firetruck. Do not expect a knock on the door. Do not expect a phone call. Start taking action now to reduce your risk.
Avoid bush fire prone areas. If your home is in a bush fire prone area, the safest option is to not be there. Do not travel through bushland areas.
Leaving is the safest option for your survival. If you plan to leave, leave early.
Stay up to date on fires in your area. People are urged to download the ‘Fires Near Me’ app: https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fires-near-me
If you are threatened by fire, you need to take action to protect yourself. Do not be caught in the open.
Everyone needs to take care in hot weather, but some people are more susceptible to the health effects of heatwaves include: the elderly, infants and young children, people who have to work in hot conditions, people on certain medications, people who are unwell or have chronic illness and people who live alone or are socially-isolated.
Signs of heat-related illness include confusion, dizziness, fainting, nausea, vomiting, weakness, headaches heavy or loss of sweating, muscle cramps, dry swollen tongue, rapid pulse and rapid shallow breathing.
If you can, it’s a good idea to spend some time in an air-conditioned building.
People showing any of these signs should seek urgent medical attention through their GP or local emergency department.
People are also being encouraged to take extra precautions to protect themselves against the bushfire smoke. NSW Health is particularly reminding the elderly and parents and carers of young children to stay indoors, shut windows and where possible postpone outdoor activities.
People with asthma should follow their asthma action plans and make sure they are carrying their reliever medication.
Be aware of potential hazards such as embers, falling debris, damage to surroundings and reduced visibility which can cause injury.
Paramedics are urging people in fire affected areas to wear any form of eyewear and loose clothing to cover your skin to assist in reducing any incidental injury.
NSW Ambulance recommends if anyone sustains any form of burn they should cool the affected area immediately with water – ideally running water – for a minimum of 20 minutes (for eyes ensure you flush the eye) and seek medical attention.
It is important that people really take care of themselves. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, make sure you have all your medications with you and readily available at all times.
People with any respiratory issues, or who are particularly vulnerable, can be the first to feel the effects of smoke which may aggravate their existing condition. Even healthy adults and children can be impacted by the effects of heavy smoke which can result in lung irritation.
These conditions can have a serious impact on your health and it is important to remember that our bodies have to work extra hard to cope or cool down. Ensure you stay hydrated and pay particular attention to any symptoms (dizziness, headaches, racing pulse or nausea) of heat related illness.
NSW Ambulance is always here to help – never be afraid to call Triple Zero (000).
State Emergency Service
Strong winds may impact NSW from Thursday across the weekend. Take the time now to prepare your home or property and be aware of weather conditions:
Fire and Rescue NSW:
A statewide Total Fire Ban is now in effect through now until midnight Saturday 21 December 2019, due to hot and dry conditions across NSW. If you see an unattended fire, please call Triple Zero (000) immediately.
This means you cannot light, maintain or use a fire in the open, or to carry out any activity in the open that causes, or is likely to cause, a fire.
To prepare your home for dangerous fire weather, clean out your gutters and remove piles of rubbish, weeds and leaf matter.
If you have a pool, tank or dam, put a Static Water Supply (SWS) sign on your property entrance so that our firefighters and the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) can easily identify water supplies.
If you are in a bushfire affected area, please enact your Bush Fire Survival Plan.
NSW Police Force:
With high temperatures expected in the city and hotter out west; we are asking commuters to keep their cool. Traffic delays and the heat generally has the potential to frustrate drivers with slower conditions on the road; so please be patient.
We know many people will want to head to the beach, a local swimming hole or swim in your backyard pool. Please be careful. Keep a watchful eye over children especially when they are near the water – all children need to be supervised.
While a southerly change is expected tonight (Thursday 19 December 2019), it is anticipated this may also have the potential for damaging winds. Take time now to secure lose items like garden furniture and trampolines. If you need help call emergency services.
The best advice is if you don’t need to be out – stay at home.
Above all, look after yourself and those around you. If you need assistance call Triple Zero (000).