More 'large and complex' fires expected to rage across Australia

27 December 2019, 11:10 | Updated: 27 December 2019, 11:20

More bushfires are expected with a code red in place in South Australia
More bushfires are expected with a code red in place in South Australia. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

More bushfires are expected in South Australia as the state declares a code red heatwave that is set to reach highs of 42C.

The southern state saw 86 homes destroyed in wildfires last week, with its capital Adelaide reaching a sweltering 46C.

Firefighters tackling blazes in neighbouring New South Wales have set up containment lines ahead of an expected heatwave.

The Christmas period brought residents and the fire services a degree of respite, as temperatures somewhat cooled for several days.

Firefighters have been tackling the infernos across NSW and South Australia
Firefighters have been tackling the infernos across NSW and South Australia. Picture: PA

However, fierce temperatures returned on Friday and are set to remain in place for the rest of the weekend.

South Australia's government has since declared a code red, which seeks to ensure rough sleepers are hydrated and kept cool in the sizzling conditions.

Homeless people are given both shelters and food to survive the draining heat.

South Australian Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said: "Keeping vulnerable South Australians safe and well in the extreme heat forecast over the next few days is our priority."

Sydney's Blue Mountains were covered in gloomy skies during the crisis
Sydney's Blue Mountains were covered in gloomy skies during the crisis. Picture: PA

Adelaide's fire danger rating was "severe" whilst the rest of the state was mostly between "high" and "very high."

Despite the containment efforts of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS), roughly 70 blazes continued to rage across the state with about half of them remaining uncontained.

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said: "Because these fires are large, they're complex and they're very prone to the elements. Once these weather conditions turn around, we know we're going to see increased fire activity.

"So they're just giving their all to shore up protection and trying to consolidate and contain them as much as they can."

950 homes have been damaged by the blazes
950 homes have been damaged by the blazes. Picture: PA

Authorities in the state are expecting conditions to deteriorate, with Sydney set to hit 35C on Tuesday and the western suburbs reaching a possible 41C.

Over the past few months, Australia's searing summer has seen roughly 12.35 million acres of land scorched by fires.

Nine people have been killed and more than 950 homes have been destroyed during the wildfire crisis.

Most of the houses damaged were situated in the country's most populous state, New South Wales, which has borne the brunt of the damage as 850 properties were razed.

Australia's Prime Minister was criticised for going on holiday during the crisis
Australia's Prime Minister was criticised for going on holiday during the crisis. Picture: PA

Meanwhile, defence minister Linda Reynolds said beleaguered prime minister Scott Morrison has had discussions with state premiers regarding how to financially support volunteer firefighters.

On Tuesday, Mr Morrison announced that those who had voluntarily helped tackle the blazes would receive paid leave entitlements.

The Australian Prime Minister has faced criticism since taking a family holiday to Hawaii during the wildfire crisis.

Ms Reynolds said: "He's been discussing (financial support) with the premier of New South Wales and other state and territory leaders.

"So the prime minister is looking at this issue further on how we can provide targeted support in these extreme circumstances so that our volunteers get the support they need to keep volunteering."

Australian authorities have said they will be focusing on protecting water plants, pumping stations and pipes in a bid to combat the fires.

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