Australia just can’t seem to catch a break. The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather update Thursday noting that the current heat wave that began on the northwestern part of the continent earlier this week is making its way southeast, toward the region where the bushfires continue to burn.
This is bad, bad news for areas that have already suffered tremendously. To make things worse, gusty winds will help fuel the flames in concert with the rising temperatures. Currently, the Australian Capital Territory, southeastern parts of New South Wales, and parts of Victoria face elevated fire dangers. In southeastern Australia, temperatures will be as high as 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).
Residents need to stay on high alert because the fires aren’t the only threat. The heat is dangerous, too. When temperatures climb this high, the potential for heatstroke, dehydration, and other heat-related physical impairments becomes more likely and risky.
So far, the flames have eaten more than 42 million acres throughout the country, an area roughly twice the size of Ireland. In New South Wales alone, the damage includes 2,399 homes destroyed, per the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. Some rains earlier this month brought some temporary relief, but they also brought debris flows.
The upcoming wind danger is a serious concern for firefighters and residents living in the vicinity of bushfires. Strong gusts can completely shift the direction of the fires quickly. Video captured in Shoalhaven, an area about 90 miles south of Sydney, showed firefighters fleeing from a firestorm that whipped up from nothing in just minutes.
Those firefighters were lucky to get out when they did. Others may not be so lucky.