Residents in the regional town of Miles, about 200km west of Toowoomba in Queensland, are being warned to prepare to leave their properties after a fire erupted at Ayton Road on Saturday.
The “fast-moving” fire has continued travelling towards Pine Ridge Road, prompting authorities to issue the ‘Prepare to Leave’ warning at 1.38pm.
— Qld Fire & Emergency (@QldFES) September 16, 2023
Queensland Fire and Rescue urge residents to have their bushfire survival plan ready, keep medications close by, pack essential items, and prepare to leave with pets as conditions may get worse quickly.
The public are encouraged to avoid driving near the areas mentioned above.
Firefighting aircraft were also called in to help control a blaze that started at about 2.15pm in Julago, 15kms south of Townsville in northeast Queensland.
Residents were being warned to stay alert and have a plan in place in case the fire spread further.
Another fire started shortly after 1pm in Burrum Coast National Park, 30km south of Bundaberg on Queensland’s east coast, according to Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
Locals were told stay informed as to the status of the fire, after having to evacuate the area due to another fire just five days earlier.
“Not again!” one terrified resident wrote on Facebook.
More hot weather in store for millions
The warning emerged alongside predictions of sizzling weather up and down the east coast of the country, with temperatures predicted to hit 10 degrees above the seasonal average.
The heatwave-like temperatures will see residents of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane sweat through incredibly high spring temperatures, with some areas of Sydney’s west forecast to top 35 degrees.
Sky News Weather meteorologist Alison Osborne said: “From Thursday to Tuesday, temperature anomalies of 8-12 degrees above average are across the south and east, peaking at 12-16 degrees above average in South Australia on Sunday and Monday.
“The heat in the Sydney on Monday and Tuesday could be in the mid-thirties which would be the city’s hottest September weather in six years”.
A heatwave has not been fully declared because while the days will be baking, Aussies will get some relief at night with temperatures largely forecast to stay cool.
However, the Bureau of Meteorology warned the coming months will be hotter and drier.
Its Long Range Forecast, for October through to December, found temperatures were above average while rainfall was below average in August – a trend the Bureau believes will continue through to the end of the year.
Residents Fire danger ratings for huge areas of the East coast have moved from moderate to high, which means residents should be ready to act to protect themselves and their property from fire.
NSW Health executive director of health protection Dr Jeremy McAnulty said people should minimise heat exposure with maximum temperatures in the mid to high 30s forecast for many parts of the state.
“It’s important you do not allow yourself to become too hot or dehydrated by minimising physical activity outdoors during the day and staying well hydrated by drinking water,” he said.
“Don’t wait until you’re thirsty before drinking water.
“It’s best to try and avoid the heat of the day by staying indoors and keeping curtains and blinds shut early.
“If you don’t have airconditioning, using a fan, wetting your skin with a sponge, spray or water-soaked towel can help to keep you cool.”
Dr McAnulty also warned the heat posed a special danger to the elderly, the very young and those with medical conditions.
“People over 65, people with chronic medical conditions and babies and young children are particularly sensitive to the heat,” he said.
“Stay in regular contact with elderly neighbours, friends and relatives who may need help.”
Heat exposure can cause severe illness, hospital admission and even death.
It can also exacerbate the risk of underlying health conditions and cause a severe medical episode such as a heart attack or difficulty breathing.
Signs of heat-related illness include dizziness, tiredness, irritability, excessive thirst, fainting, headache, changes in skin colour, rapid pulse, shallow breathing, nausea, vomiting and confusion.
Fears for thousands running in scorching heat
The warm weather has also prompted concern for the safety of tens of thousands of runners who will descend on the streets of Sydney for the city’s famous marathon on Sunday.
The 42.195km race will take runners hours to complete, with the temperature expected to hit a maximum of 28C and humidity at 65 per cent.
Sydney Marathon Race Director, Wayne Larden, issued a statement on Friday, saying the event was making the changes and moving the start time earlier as it was committed to delivering a “world-class, safe event for participants”.
“Following extensive consultation with key stakeholders including the Rural Fire Service (RFS), Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and NSW health, organisers of Sydney Marathon will provide the following information to participants,” the statement read.
“The advice is being provided due to the expected higher than average temperature conditions forecast for the event on Sunday 17 September 2023 and provide detailed guidance to all participants on how to best take care of themselves before, during, and after the race.”
The event will now begin at 5.45am – the coolest point of the day – with 21.1km event runners expected to finish within two hours and 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, the 10km event will begin at 6.05am, with participants expected to finish throughout the morning.
The Sydney Marathon will commence at 7.10am with organisers warning participants will experience a range of temperatures throughout the event.
“The hottest part of the day will occur at 1pm, reaching 28 degrees. This will mark the 6-hour point of the event, and we expect a large portion of marathon participants to have finished,” the statement says.
A thick smoke haze has clouded the city’s skies this week and prompted health warnings as fire crews crammed in hazard reduction burns before the fire season officially begins in October.
“As we move into next week, we’re likely to see high fire danger, if not extreme fire danger and we may see some total fire bans,” NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman Ben Shepherd told Today on Friday morning.
“It’s imperative that we get this work done. These are areas that didn’t burn during that awful 2019-20 fire season, so over the past week thousands of homes have been protected, thousands of lives potentially protected.”
The RFS is urging residents, even those who don’t live in high fire danger zones, to prepare now and compile an action plan in the case of bushfire.
The warmer temperatures and increased winds on Friday helped lift the smoke haze that has lingered in Sydney for most of the week.
“We have seen the smoke start to dissipate,” Mr Shepherd said.
“It has moved to the southwest overnight and we are seeing it slowly move back towards the city, so over the coming hours we could still see a little bit more smoke.
“But stronger winds tomorrow (on Saturday) should help us start to clear out the majority of that smoke away from Sydney.”
The smoke should clear just in time for the Sydney Marathon which is already expected to be a battle against the unseasonable heat for the more than 40,000 participants plus spectators that are expected to turn out on Sunday.
Participants will run more than 42km from North Sydney across the Harbour Bridge and to the Opera House in heat that could climb to a maximum of 32C before the race is over.
The weather has prompted health concerns for runners who haven’t been training in hot conditions and face increased pressure on their body.
Health warning ahead of fire season
Sydney was ranked the third worst air quality in the world on Thursday behind Dubai and Lahore in Pakistan as a thick haze blanketed the city from hazard reduction burns.
Lung Foundation Australia urges residents, especially those living with health conditions, to be aware of extra pollutants in the air during smoky conditions.
— Rafqa Touma (@At_Raf_) September 13, 2023
Acting chief executive Christa Bayer explained that exposure to smoke could have serious impacts on the health of the general public and especially those living with lung conditions.
“As a bushfire burns, a mixture of fine particles and toxic gases are released into the air as smoke, and these particles (known as PM2.5) can go deep into the lungs, enter the blood and travel throughout the body,” she said.
“Short-term, breathing in these particles can exacerbate existing health issues, impair lung function and increase hospitalisation and death rates.”
Higher-risk people include those suffering from pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, stroke and asthma.
It can also extend to those experiencing the symptoms of long Covid, including shortness of breath or heart conditions.
“Those people are absolutely at higher risk and so they do need to take extra precautions because they are at higher risk of having their condition exacerbated by the bushfire smoke,” Ms Bayer said.
If you’re in an area that is particularly affected, where possible:
Avoid physical activity outdoors (consider indoor activities instead)
Rest more frequently
Close windows and doors to minimise outside air coming into your home
Switch your airconditioner (if you have one) to recycle or recirculate mode
Follow your action plan and treatment advised by your doctor and keep your medicines close at hand