On Sunday, November 17, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services for Western Australia (WA) state issued catastrophic fire danger warnings (the highest on a six-tier scale) in four regions: North Interior, East Pilbara Inland, East Pilbara Coast, and Ashburton Inland. The Rural Fire Service (RFS) in Queensland issued a catastrophic fire warning for the Darling Downs region. The catastrophic warnings mean that any fires that start in these areas will likely be so devastating that even the most prepared properties are at risk, and preemptive evacuations are encouraged. Further fire warnings, including extreme and severe, are also in place for New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, and Northern Territory states. Firefighters across the country are battling more than 120 bushfires as of 14:00 (local time) on Sunday.
Dry conditions are forecast to continue in the coming weeks, and temperatures are expected to increase on the eastern coast from Tuesday, November 19. Further spread of the fires is possible over the coming days and weeks. A heightened security presence, road closures, and power outages are to be expected in the vicinity of any wildfire. Officials may issue evacuation orders. Weather warnings can be found on the Australian Meteorology website here.
Over 1 million hectares (2,471,053 acres) of land have been burned since the wildfires broke out in NSW on October 9. Authorities have indicated that the fires are due to high temperatures and drought. At least four people have died as a result of the bushfires.
Wildfires are an annual event in Australia between December and February; however, authorities have been on high alert since September 2015 over unseasonably warm temperatures, prompting scientists to speculate that climate change could be extending and increasing the intensity of the fire season.
Individuals in Australia 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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