The Tasmanian Fire Service (TFS) had maintained 12 Emergency Warnings for large fires across Tasmania state as of 18:00 (local time) on Wednesday, January 30, including nine in the vicinity of Riveaux Road and three on the Central Plateau. Officials indicate that more than 65 bushfires have destroyed roughly 173,000 hectares (427,492 acres) and TFS is currently monitoring a large fire spreading towards Geeveston and Port Huon, south of Hobart. Police are also investigating at least ten fires that were deliberately lit near Launceston and aircraft were deployed to dump water on spot fires as part of containment efforts. Authorities have instituted a total fire ban in parts of southern, eastern, and central Tasmania and the Environment Protection Authority warned of unhealthy air quality in Geeveston, Cygnet, Mornington, and Hobart, with parts of greater-Hobart exhibiting unhealthy levels as of the Thursday morning, January 31.
Australia's Bureau of Meteorology has indicated a cold front is forecast in southern Tasmania beginning on Wednesday evening bringing rain and lower temperatures of 18-20°C (64-68°F) through Friday, February 1. While the rain and cooler temperatures are expected to aid in fire containment efforts, higher temperatures of 27-31°C (80-88°F) and dry conditions are forecast beginning on Saturday, February 2. Additional fires are possible in Tasmania as high temperatures are expected in the near-term.
Wildfires are an annual summer event in Australia. Since 2011, the Australian government and non-governmental environmental groups have studied the potential impact of climate change, including extreme temperatures and low-rainfall, and the greater intensity of the fire season.
Individuals present in Tasmania are advised to keep abreast of warnings and adhere to any instructions issued by local authorities, notably evacuation orders. As high temperatures are expected in the near-term, individuals are also advised to remain hydrated and minimize outdoor activities. Furthermore, individuals should limit outdoor activities until the situation normalizes and those with chronic respiratory illnesses should exercise increased caution; seek medical attention if experiencing breathing difficulties or other health concerns.
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