Exhausted firefighters across NSW are facing a race against time as they try to contain dozens of blazes around the state before temperatures soar into the 40s on Tuesday.
Authorities are particularly concerned about the large fire burning on the outskirts of Sydney’s northwest at Gospers Mountain. It has been dubbed a ‘mega blaze’ after joining with neighbouring fires on Friday, and stretching towards the Central Coast.
The temperature at Richmond, which is perilously close to the blaze, will reach 42 degrees on Tuesday. Singleton in the Hunter Valley, just beyond the northern edge of the mega blaze, is set for 43.
The CBD will cop 36 and Bondi will be slightly cooler at 29, attracting beachgoers trying to catch some sun through the expectant smoke haze that is set to return on Monday afternoon.
Parramatta is forecast to reach 40 degrees on Tuesday.
Back-burning on Monday to help contain fire front
Better weather on Sunday provided an opportunity for critical back-burning and containment work ahead of the sudden spike in temperatures.
That work will continue on Monday as about 90 fires burn across NSW, half of which are not contained.
The majority are at watch an act level but authorities are keeping an eye on two big fires in the Singleton area – the Paddock Run and Little L Complex fires – and another Gospers Mountain in Sydney's northwestern outskirts that has merged with neighbouring fires.
Much of inland #NSW is set to swelter through a heatwave early this week with hot 40+ degree days and very warm 20+ degree nights. Stay hydrated, keep cool, look out for the vulnerable and #BeatTheHeat. Get your 7 day temperature forecast at Meteye https://t.co/5DeSVxbHhv pic.twitter.com/bySeM7S8uv— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) December 7, 2019
"There is a very high fire danger forecast for a number of areas in NSW today," the NSW Rural Fire Service tweeted.
"Fire dangers are set to increase tomorrow with hot, dry and windy conditions forecast."
"Very high" fire danger warnings are in place for Monday for the greater Hunter, Illawarra/Shoalhaven, Monaro alpine, southern ranges, central ranges, northern slopes and north-western fire regions, as well as the ACT.
The Bureau of Meteorology has warned much of inland NSW will "swelter" through a heatwave early this week with hot 40-plus-degree days and very warm 20-plus-degree nights.
While dense smoke from large fires near Warragamba Dam and the Wollombi National Park dissipated over Sydney in the past 24 hours it is set to return Monday afternoon.
There is Very High fire danger forecast for a number of areas in NSW today. Fire dangers are set to increase tomorrow with hot, dry and windy conditions forecast. Take this time now to discuss your bush fire survival plan and know what you will do if fire threatens. #nswrfs pic.twitter.com/mZ4x50vqD5— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 8, 2019
At 9pm 6 fires are at Watch and Act. 91 fires are burning across NSW, 48 still uncontained.— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 8, 2019
Crews have worked hard today locking in containment lines and working to open roads. Community meetings were also held providing updates to residents on the current fire situation #nswrfs pic.twitter.com/13IHsURZrC
More than 2000 koalas feared dead
An inquiry into koala populations and habitat in NSW is expected to hear evidence that more than 2000 of the native Australian marsupial may have died on the state's north coast in recent bushfires.
The state parliament's upper house inquiry will hold an urgent hearing on Monday to discuss the extent of damage to the koala population from bushfires.
Thousands of hectares of koala habitat across northern NSW and southeast Queensland have been destroyed in the recent bushfires.
Koalas are listed as vulnerable in Queensland, NSW and the ACT, largely a result of habitat clearing.
North East Forest Alliance president and ecologist Dailan Pugh is expected to give evidence on Monday that more than 2000 koalas may have died and up to one third of koala habitat on the state's north coast may have been lost in the fires.
Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, chair of the inquiry, said the loss of koalas should be a wake-up call.
"Today's hearing is timely and necessary. We will be hearing from some of Australia's leading experts on koalas, bushfire and climate change," Ms Faehrmann said in a statement on Sunday.
Victoria to cop sweltering temperatures on Monday
A total fire ban is in place on Monday for Victoria's north and northwest regions with temperatures forecast to reach the low 40s in some towns.
Mildura will likely top the list at 43, with Swan Hill following closely with 42 forecast.
Scorching temperatures and strong winds have prompted the ban on the Mallee, Wimmera and Northern Country regions.
Scorching and windy conditions forecast will see gusts of up to 70km/h.
Very high fire danger ratings have been declared across almost all the rest of the state. The southwest region is expected to face milder temperatures with a high fire danger rating declared.
Melbourne won't be as windy as the northern regions but the city is still set to hit 39 degrees.
CFA advised people living in areas at risk of fire to activate their bush fire plan.
"East Gippsland has already experienced several bushfires, which continue to burn and more than 32,400ha currently on fire," Victoria's Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said on Sunday.
Mr Crisp said Victorians should take action to protect themselves from the heat tomorrow and look after those most at risk.
"This includes your neighbours living alone, the elderly, the young, people with medical conditions and don't forget your pets."
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