Sydney experienced its first total fire ban in almost three years on Tuesday and several schools along the New South Wales state coast to the south were closed because of a heightened wildfire danger, caused by unusually hot and dry conditions across southeast Australia.
“We are in this run of very, very warm weather which hasn’t been seen in many, many years,” the bureau’s senior meteorologist Miriam Bradbury said. Authorities said 61 wildfires were burning across Australia’s most populous state Tuesday, with 13 burning out of control. Authorities declared a “catastrophic” fire danger along the south coast of New South Wales, the highest level of danger in a five-tier rating system. “The problem is when we get into fires in catastrophic’ fire danger rating, there’s not much time for us to get on top of those fires and contain them and once they take hold we won’t be able to put those fires out,” Rural Fire Service Commissioner Rob Rogers said.
“We need to warn the community the risk has elevated and make sure that people focus on life preservation on a day like today,” he added.
State education authorities said 20 schools in south coast communities closed Tuesday because of the fire danger they were exposed to. The Bureau of Meteorology on Tuesday declared an El Nino weather pattern, which is associated with hotter and drier conditions across the Australian east coast, after three successive La Nina events brought milder and wetter conditions.
Echoes of Black Summer: Australia braces for destructive Fire season
Southern Hemisphere summer threatens Australia’s populous southeast with its most destructive wildfires since the catastrophic 2019-20 Black Summer fires, claiming 33 lives and devouring 19 million hectares. A total fire ban for Greater Sydney, not seen since November 2020, coincides with record September temperatures, painting an unusually warm start to spring in the southeast, warns the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.