Nov. 10 (UPI) — For the first time since 2009, Australian fire officials issued a maximum fire warning for Sydney and the surrounding region for Tuesday after brush fires killed three people and injured 40 more over the weekend.
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service said the catastrophic fire danger alert was given for Tuesday as they tried to contain more than 60 fires. More than 150 homes were destroyed and officials warned that more will be in danger as temperatures were expected to soar near 100 degrees.
“High temperatures, strong winds and low humidity are forecast making conditions dangerous,” the warning stated. “Catastrophic is the highest level of bush fire danger. Homes are not designed to withstand afire under these conditions.
“If a fire starts and takes hold during catastrophic fire danger conditions, lives and homes will be at risk,” the warning continued.
The warning told residents to avoid bush fire prone areas, suggesting that larger cities, shopping centers or facilities away from bushland areas would be safer locations. Officials said schools in the affected areas will be closed.
The North Coast, Illawarra and Shoalhaven, Central Ranges, Northern Slopes and North Western New South Wales were all listed as locations in extreme danger areas. The Far North Coast, New England, Far South Coast, Southern Ranges and Lower Central West Plains were in severe danger zones.
New South Wales issued a statewide fire ban for Monday and Tuesday because of the fire conditions.
Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Paul Baxter said a fallen tree at Nambucca Heads injured two firefighters Sunday while battling a brush fire.
“One firefighter was partially outside the truck when the tree fell, causing injuries to her head and neck,” Baxter said in a statement. “The impact of the tree falling on the roof also caused head injuries to another firefighter inside the truck. Both firefighters were attended to by NSW Ambulance paramedics and have been transferred to a hospital in a stable condition.”
Three people have been reported dead in the fires but five others missing have been accounted for.