Fire crews in New South Wales and Victoria are bracing for the return of severe fire conditions with hot and windy weather forecast across both states.
Just days after heavy rain and golf ball-sized hail lashed parts of the south-east of the country, Victoria again faces severe fire danger on Wednesday, while the Rural Fire Service has warned NSW could see fire activity increase on Thursday.
Temperatures are expected to rise into the 30s across most of Victoria, and strong winds will elevate the potential for new blazes sparking in the west.
“A new [fire] start [on Wednesday] with 50km/h winds means we will struggle to put them out immediately,” CFA chief officer Steve Warrington said on Tuesday evening.
“We believe that … we will struggle to extinguish a running grassfire.”
A total fire ban aimed at preventing the start of new fires has been issued on Wednesday for all central, north and west areas of the state, while firefighters will keep battling the flames in the fire-ravaged eastern areas.
Rain will still be present across the northeast and East Gippsland, but it will be lighter that the heavy downpours of previous days.
The State Emergency Service said on Tuesday evening they had received 2,220 calls for assistance since rain flooded the state on Sunday afternoon.
Melbourne recorded 44mm of rain on Tuesday, which marked its highest 24 hour rainfall since 2011.
Rain helped containment work on the active blazes, but also caused damage to roads and landslips.
There were 14 bushfires still burning in Victoria by Tuesday evening, but they weren’t posing risks to lives and homes.
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp urged Victorians to remain vigilant, especially when travelling over the Australia Day long weekend.
In New South Wales, temperatures are expected to reach 40C in Nowra on the south coast, 43C in Penrith in western Sydney, 41C in Cessnock in the Hunter region and 42C in Bulahdelah on the mid-north coast.
NSW RFS spokesman Ben Shepherd said low humidity and very strong northwesterly winds have crews bracing a potentially dangerous day.
“There is a broad area of severe and very high fire danger and areas of extreme fire danger,” Shepherd said on Wednesday.
“All fire grounds have received some rainfall and that has greatly reduced some fire activity but we might still see some fire grounds pick up and move tomorrow.”
Severe and possible extrem
Winds averaging up to 65km/h with gusts of 90km/h are expected on Wednesday afternoon and into the evening.
The BOM warned Thursday’s damaging winds may extend to the southern tablelands, the central tablelands, the Illawarra and south coast.
The warning comes after severe thunderstorms hit Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong on Monday, leaving homes and businesses without power.
More than 60 fires continued to burn across the state as of Tuesday night with 16 yet to be contained. More than 1,100 firefighters were in the field.