Milder conditions are providing a short reprieve for exhausted firefighters across New South Wales before dangerous bushfire weather is set to return on Friday.
- On Friday temperatures are expected to reach the mid-30s on the coast and low-to-mid-40s inland
- Thunderstorms could again produce dry lightning and erratic wind conditions
- Rainfall has not been enough to extinguish fires and could hamper backburning efforts
The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) is taking advantage of cooler temperatures — including rain in some areas — to strengthen containment lines before the mercury rises back into the 40s in some parts of the state.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Dean Sgarbossa said cool temperatures would persist until Friday, when heat would rebuild, initially in South Australia before moving into Victoria and NSW.
Temperatures on the coast are expected to hit the mid-to-high 30s while the mercury will soar into the mid-40s in inland areas including Griffith, Hay and Broken Hill.
Mr Sgarbossa said conditions would be similar to Saturday, when at least 60 properties were destroyed in NSW.
“We’ll see strengthening north to north-westerly winds ahead of another quite squally south-westerly cool change,” he said.
“There’s the chance of high-based and maybe dry thunderstorms, which could ignite new fires via lightning but also produce damaging wind gusts which could lead to erratic fire conditions on the ground.”
Temperature records were smashed on Saturday when the mercury rose to 48.9 degrees Celsius in Penrith — the hottest it’s been in the Sydney Basin since 1939.
Mr Sgarbossa said conditions had been “exceptionally dry and warm” over spring and into December, which had lead to the enhanced fire danger, but some rain was on the way.
“We are starting to see moisture build off north-west Western Australia … and that will potentially drive further rainfall and cloud bands over the next month or so.”
Around 2,500 personnel will be on fire grounds across the state with crews attempting tactical and strategic backburns to contain fires, strengthen containment lines and bring some fires under control.
But these efforts could be hindered by the wet conditions and rain, which is not falling in great enough quantities to extinguish the blazes.
Bushfire behaviour expert Thomas Duff told the ABC a small amount of rain could be a nuisance because it results in patchy fires within the control lines.
“Having unburnt areas within your control lines is actually quite dangerous because they can be a source of new fires or spot fires when things dry out again,” Dr Duff said.
With the weather heating up again on Friday, this is the real fear.
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