Australian firefighters leveraged on cooler conditions on Christmas Day to try and contain bushfires ahead of hot, dry weather later in the week.
On Wednesday, Christmas brought much-needed rain and cool weather to Australia. However, it wasn’t enough to quench horrors caused by the two major bush fires blazing in a mountain range west of Sydney and that both will meet and become one megafire over the coming weekend.
Blazing Blue Mountains
Two scorching bush fires are spreading through Australia’s Blue Mountains, a mountain range in the western part of New South Wales (NSW). Around 2,000 firefighters battled the fires on Christmas Day, trying to desperately calm the blaze before temperatures shoot further this weekend.
For now, firefighters will use the cooler conditions and reinforce the containment lines, the NSW Rural Fire Service said on Wednesday. The northern fire has charred half a million hectares (1.2 million acres).
The state premier of New South Wales (NSW), Gladys Berejiklian and the head of the NSW rural fire service, Shane Fitzsimmons, attended a breakfast organized by volunteers in the small town of Colo, 90km (55 miles) northwest of Sydney. Volunteers did a great job after the state saw entire towns destroyed by fires over the last weekend.
“Community volunteers provided food, company, conversation, wrapped presents & hampers to share for crews heading into the field,” Fitzsimmons tweeted.
“It was just lovely & spirits were high”.
There is a forecast that intense heat is going to return by the weekend, especially South Australia, where temperatures are expected to exceed 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
Destruction So Far
In the last few months, more than 900 homes were lost across the dry continent, according to the authorities, even though the summer has not yet arrived its mid-point in the southern hemisphere.
Across five states, the fires have devastated more than 3.7 million hectares (9.1 million acres) and at least six people have died in NSW and two in South Australia during the bushfire emergency.
Words from the Australian PM on Christmas
Prime Minister Scott Morrison used a Christmas message to appreciate and thank volunteers for their willingness to spend the day away from their families.
On Wednesday morning, Morrison said in a video shared on social media, “As we look forward to next year and as we celebrate this Christmas I want to thank all of those who serve our nation”.
Morrison has faced continued political pressure, as the bushfires have raged, following his decision to take a family holiday to Hawaii last week and his conservative Liberal-National coalition government’s climate policies.
South Australia Country Fire Chief Mark Jones told local media that, despite the holiday, volunteers were prepared to jump in.
Leaders and communities in Australia thanked their firefighters for sacrificing the time they spent with their families over the holidays. “Fires don’t discriminate whether it’s Christmas Day or not,” he said. “And our firefighters don’t discriminate either.