Catastrophic fire danger alert in South Australia as heatwave sweeps country
South Australia has readied 10,000 volunteers as Victoria, WA and NSW also feel brunt of soaring temperatures
27 January, 2014
The South Australia country fire service (CFS) issued a catastrophic fire danger alert for the south-east region on Tuesday, and advised residents in bushfire-prone areas to get out straight away. On what is the first day back for many students, 11 South Australian schools have been closed.
“We have 10,000 volunteers across the state and they’re on high alert given the weather forecast for today,” the CFS media and communications officer, Chris Metevelis, told Guardian Australia. “We're bracing ourselves for fire conditions over the next few days, and particularly today the fact we’ve got fire bans across the state.”
Some firefighting resources are already committed to fires in the Flinders ranges at Bangor and the Riverland region. The Bangor fire is on a Watch and Act alert and the CFS warns it may threaten safety. A fire at Tumby Bay was earlier on the same alert level but has since been downgraded to an advice warning.
“As the weather conditions worsen over the coming days the fire behaviour on the Bangor and Billiatt firegrounds will intensify, posing additional challenges for firefighters,” said a CFS alert on Monday evening.
“While crews continue to work hard to control the fire, the community is advised to remain alert and aware to the conditions as they are continually changing.”
Metevelis said the highest level of alert – created in the wake of Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 – was invoked only in the most extreme of circumstances, “when conditions are at their peak”, and was not common.
“The thing we always emphasise is to make sure people activate their bushfire survival plans and be across what they need to do,” he said. “If a fire does break out it’s almost impossible to control. So that’s why we advise people to move somewhere else temporarily until the risk has abated.”
The fire danger was also extreme in the eastern Eyre peninsula, lower Eyre peninsula, Mount Lofty ranges, Yorke peninsula, Murraylands and upper south-east regions, and severe in north-west pastoral, north-east pastoral, west coast, Flinders, mid-north, Adelaide metropolitan, Kangaroo Island and Riverland regions.
Extreme fire danger was also forecast for the Victorian regions of Wimmera and the south-west and there will be a total fire ban in place for the south-west, north central, Mallee, northern country, Wimmera, east Gippsland, north-east, central west and south Gippsland regions owing to the high temperatures and strong winds.
The heatwave will reach increasingly severe levels in regional areas of NSW and Victoria on Tuesday, and in South Australia and Western Australia by Friday, according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s pilot heatwave forecast.
The temperature is predicted to reach 39C in Melbourne, 36C in Hobart, and 41C in Adelaide on Tuesday. Regional areas of South Australia, NSW and Victoria will see temperatures in the low- to mid-40s this week as the second major heatwave for the year progresses.
Record temperatures earlier this month added to what the bureau described as “one of the most significant multi-day heatwaves on record”.
This has today's date but may be fires from about 10 days ago in Victoria