Fire Threat Moves to New South Wales as Heat Abates in South

Australia’s wildfire threat shifted overnight to New South Wales as lightning strikes triggered a new round of blazes in the most populous state.

More than 90 burns erupted in New South Wales, where total fire bans have been ordered in some areas, according to the state’s Rural Fire Service. The most serious wildfire was out of control at 4:30 p.m. local time in Murraguldrie State Forest, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of Canberra, the national capital.

Cooler weather has brought relief to firefighters and residents of southeastern Australia after a heatwave saw temperatures exceed 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) in the South Australian township of Roseworthy on Jan. 16, and the major cities of Melbourne and Adelaide last week recorded highs of more than 40 degrees for at least four straight days.

At least 16 homes were destroyed in South Australia and Victoria states during the heatwave, which saw electricity demand soar and power stations suffer equipment failure, authorities said.

Australia’s hot, dry climate makes wildfires a major risk in the southern hemisphere’s summer, reflected on Jan. 12 when blazes on the eastern fringes of Perth in Western Australia burnt 52 homes, according to authorities. That state is again heating up, with maximum temperatures in Perth not expected to dip under 35 degrees Celsius over the next four days.

The annual wildfire season had an early start when more than 200 homes were destroyed in October, most in the Blue Mountains about 80 kilometers west of Sydney. In February 2009, fires across Victoria state killed 173 people and destroyed 150 homes in the so-called Black Saturday blazes, the worst in Australian history.

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