A volunteer firefighter has died after a truck crashed on the NSW-Victoria border amid the bushfire crisis.
Two other crew members also suffered burns during the rollover near Jingellic, east of Albury.
"It's believed that the truck rolled when hit by extreme winds associated with the fire," the NSW Rural Fire Service tweeted on Monday evening.
The firefighters were working on the Green Valley fire at the time, which has burned more than 2000 hectares and placed isolated properties under threat on Monday.
The two injured firefighters would be treated in hospital.
A second vehicle working in the same area was also blown over and the firefighter on board has been transported to hospital.
#NSWRFS confirms that a volunteer firefighter has died this evening near Jingellic. A further 2 firefighters have suffered burns.
The firefighters were working on the Green Valley Fire, about 70km east of #Albury. It’s believed that the truck rolled when hit by extreme winds.
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 30, 2019
The RFS said its thoughts were with all the firefighter's families, friends and fellow brigade members.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has paid tribute to the volunteer firefighter who passed away.
“Just heartbreaking. A brave firefighter has lost their life protecting the community east of Albury. Words fail at times like this,” she tweeted.
The Green Valley fire – burning east of the Woomargama National Park – crossed the Murray River on Monday.
Just heartbreaking. A brave firefighter has lost their life protecting the community east of Albury. Words fail at times like this.
— Gladys Berejiklian (@GladysB) December 30, 2019
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also expressed his condolences.
“Devastated at the terrible news of the loss of another volunteer firefighter,” he tweeted.
“This is awful news for the familes and our sympathies are with them. These are testing times.
“We are so grateful for the courage and dedication of our firefighters.”
The latest fatality comes after volunteer firefighters Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, died less than two weeks ago.
The two young fathers were en route to the Green Wattle fire near Buxton, southwest of Sydney, when their vehicle veered from the road after a tree fell into their vehicle’s path.
Devastated at the terrible news of the loss of another volunteer firefighter and two others injured near Jingellic in southern NSW where a truck has rolled over. In a seperate vehicle another firefighter has been injured.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) December 30, 2019
Fires rage in Victoria
East Gippsland was ablaze late on Monday as more than 30 bushfires ravaged Victoria.
A cool change was moving across the state, with temperatures forecast to drop to the mid-20s along with high winds and thunderstorms.
Homes and lives were under threat as 13 emergency alerts were still in place for out-of-control blazes in Victoria's far east and northeast as of 7.30pm (local time) on Monday.
A large uncontrolled fire moving from the NSW border prompted an evacuation alert for residents in Walwa.
"Firefighters have been unable to stop the fire and it has now crossed into Victoria and is moving towards Walwa, Guys Creek, Cudgewa, Burrowa Pine National Park," the alert said.
An emergency warning also remained for a fire threatening the north-eastern Melbourne suburbs of Bundoora, Greensborough and Mill Park.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews returned from holidays on Monday afternoon and was visiting the state control centre.
Emergency services had encouraged residents and holidaymakers on Sunday to leave East Gippsland, where two out-of-control bushfires merged early on Monday morning.
This message shifted as roads closed and changing conditions sparked new fires.
"The highly recommended strategy is - do not be on the roads. It is too dangerous to be driving," police minister Lisa Neville said on Monday.
"Not only just from smoke, but because of the erratic nature and the fast-moving nature of these fires in East Gippsland."
The Princes Highway in East Gippsland is closed in both directions between Bairnsdale and Genoa due to increased fire activity.
Access to the Princes Highway towards Eden, NSW from Mallacoota and Genoa is also now closed.
The Great Alpine Road between Bruthen and Ensay could be shut for up to a fortnight.
"It is unpredictable, it's dangerous out there. A fire that started mid afternoon moved about 24 km within four or five hours as the wind changed direction," Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said.
"It put up a column, punching into the atmosphere 14km high. These columns are generating their own weather. There's lightning coming out of these columns."
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.