PERTH, Australia — Firefighters battling wildfires in Australia’s most populous state attempted to make headway Thursday amid favorable conditions before an “extreme heatwave” hits embattled areas on the weekend.
AUSTRALIA -Thousands of firefighters in New South Wales took advantage of cooler weather and continued to strengthen containment lines. More than 70 fires, however, were still burning across the state with areas on the south coast currently at the “watch and act” level issued by fire services.
About 12.35 million acres of land have burned nationwide over the past few months, with nine people killed and more than 950 homes destroyed. New South Wales has received the brunt of the damage, with around 850 homes razed in the state.
Authorities are bracing for conditions to deteriorate as high temperatures return. Sydney is forecast to hit 31 degrees Celsius (88 Fahrenheit) on Sunday before reaching 35 C (95 F) on Tuesday. The city’s western suburbs could reach 41 C (106 F) on Sunday.
An out-of-control bushfire has burnt through more than 11,000 hectares of land north of Perth with residents urged to leave while they still can.
It comes as New South Wales firefighters upgraded the Gospel Mountain blaze to an emergency on Saturday afternoon, and police launched an investigation into a spate of fires in regional Victoria.
The Perth blaze was moving west after an early morning wind change, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services said on Saturday.
“People in Guilderton should leave now in a northerly direction if the way is clear as fire is approaching the area,” DFES said.
The emergency warning had also been extended to residents in Two Rocks, Neergabby, Gabbadah, Seabird, Wanerie, Breton Bay, Yeal, Beermullah, Muckenburra, northern parts of Yanchep, Wilbinga, Caraban, and Woodridge -AUSTRALIA.
A federal minister has suggested volunteer firefighters be paid during long-running bushfire events.
Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester on Friday told ABC News there needed to be a conversation about the sustainability of the volunteer model.
The Nationals MP said during campaign fires that went on for days, weeks and months, volunteers were taking a long time away from their work.
“Expecting them to take away all those weeks and months to be on the fire grounds, side by side with state government employees who are being paid, I think in the longer term we need to have this conversation,” he said today.
“It’s about the sustainability of the volunteer model. How do you keep the best of the volunteer model, the ethos, the culture of the volunteers but also recognizing that we need to get younger people engaged in supporting our firefighting efforts.”