Fires could burn for months as day of hell arrives


A day of terror has arrived, with catastrophic fire conditions forecast and fears that a number of still-raging blazes could merge to create "monster infernos" in Victoria and New South Wales.

Emergency warnings are in place in Victoria and New South Wales, with scorching temperatures and unpredictable winds expected to fan hundreds of fires that continue to burn across large parts of Australia's east.

Thousands of firefighters have been deployed but there are fears that major blazes burning could combine, creating "monster infernos" that risk spreading into untouched regions.

Evacuations continued on Friday in the NSW South Coast region and in Victoria's East Gippsland, which were both devastated by bushfires from New Year's Eve onwards. Conditions today are expected to be much worse.

Follow our live, rolling coverage of the crisis throughout the day.


Pinned Story (See live updated below)

Two dead on Kangaroo Island

Two people have died in a "virtually unstoppable" bushfire that has scorched more than 150,000ha of Kangaroo Island.

SA Police Deputy Commissioner Linda Williams confirmed the deaths during a media conference on Saturday morning.

Read the full story with maps and video here ...

Aerial photos of the fire at Ravine on Kangaroo Iasland. Picture CFS
Aerial photos of the fire at Ravine on Kangaroo Iasland. Picture CFS


9m ago

Aerial evacuations taking place in Omeo

By Natalie Brown

A Defence Force spokeswoman confirmed aerial evacuations are taking place in the Omeo region.

Three Chinooks that can each carry between 16 and 25 passengers per evacuation are currently in use.

"Defence in the East Gippsland fire region has been assisting our emergency services with providing air support for moving of our firefighters and police into isolated communities, assisting with evacuation of personnel trapped or in isolated communities such as Mallacoota and several other small towns in that area, Cann River, Bruthen, et cetera.

"Where we can, we're providing as much air support to the services as possible subject to weather conditions and we'll continue to do that under the guidance and direction of the emergency services and our teams are working closely together there. "

In the same briefing the incident controller for the Gippsland region confirmed that a crew of 60 US firefighters would arrive in the area this afternoon to assist fatigued local firefighters who have been battling severe blazes since New Year. The firefighters would be assisting primarily in the Omeo Valley in East Gippsland.

12m ago

Fires to burn for another two months

By Natalie Brown

The Bairnsdale incident controller say fires will continue to burn for "at least" the next two months.

"Based on the best estimate, we would say at least another eight weeks," he said, when asked how long he predicted the fires would burn for.

"We are only at the beginning of summer. In a normal year, we would start to see the fire season kick-off in a big way around early January and we're already up towards a million hectares of burnt country.

"We would expect - we are in for the long haul. This is a marathon event and we expect to be busy managing these fires for at least the next eight weeks."


17m ago

Thousands without power in NSW

By Natalie Brown

More than 30,000 people near the Batesman Bay area in New South Wales have lost access to power, as bushfires continue to threaten the area.

Essential Energy says it is working with local authorities to enable crews safely access the power and restore it.

It's warning further outages may occur as the fires continue through the south-east area of the state, where many towns have experienced blackouts since Tuesday.

Footage shared by Hamish Macdonald demonstrates the scale of what aerial firefighters are currently up against north of the region.

20m ago

ADF enlisted to assist East Gippsland fire region

By Natalie Brown

The incident controller in Victoria's Gippsland area has just given an update on what is going on in the area today.

"It's no understatement that today has been an extremely difficult day. It's been an extremely difficult day for our communities and an extremely difficult day for the over 1,000 firefighters that are tasked to the East Gippsland fires.

"Low relative humidities, freaky wind conditions coming out of all different directions and temperatures are in the 40 degree range have tested every resource today. What we do know today is that there's been impacts on some communities in the Omeo, anglers rest, the general Omeo Valley.

"There has been impact on the communities in the valleys as well. Luckily for the Bairnsdale area and the southern parts of Gippsland, we didn't see the quite freakish conditions that we saw to the north and we've been able to hold a lot of the southern edge of the Gippsland fires.

"What we don't know is what the impacts have been. We suspect there's been a number of home lost and we're at the moment trying to get as many people out of the Omeo and Swifts Creek areas as we can using Australian Defence Force helicopters.

"The fire fight is going to continue, this aggressive fire fight, to save as much property as we can but also to keep our people safe. That will continue well into the night until we start to see an easing of fire weather conditions hopefully towards midnight tonight. Then we'll be in assessment phase on Sunday, tomorrow, and where we can start to assess exactly what's happened today. But today's been an extremely difficult day for our firefighters and community."

18m ago

NASA image reveals extent of fire's smoke coverage

by Natalie Brown

An image taken by NASA on January 1 has shown the extent of the smoke currently blanketing southeastern Australia.

A number of emergency warnings have been issued in New South Wales and Victoria, as unprecedented blazes devastate NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

18m agoJanuary 4, 2020

Sky goes dark in Mallacoota again

Jack Gramenz

Day has turned to night again in Mallacoota as the skies turn red and then brown.

One local Twitter user has been sharing images as the day progresses.


19m ago

Winds pick up, threatening to boost fires which are now creating their own thunderstorms

By Jack Gramenz

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued severe weather warnings have been issued for NSW and Victoria that threatened to spread fires further.

In Victoria, fires have created a thunderstorm likely to produce damaging, locally destructive winds in areas around Dargo and Omeo.

In NSW, damaging winds are forecast in parts of the Metropolitan and Illawarra Forecast Districts.

Speeds averaging 60 to 70 km/h with peak gusts in excess of 90 km/h are possible along parts of the Illawarra and Sydney coastal fringe this evening.

31m ago

Media excluded from evacuation centre in "misunderstanding" 

 By Jack Gramenz   A Channel Ten reporter claims she and her crew have been kicked out of an evacuation centre at the Bega showground as fires cut off evacuation routes.

NSW Police told it was a "misunderstanding".

Police claim they have received complaints from people being filmed without permission, and said Ms George and her camera crew were prevented from entering the evacuation centre briefly while police established what crews were already inside.



PM addresses NSW RFS business case

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said a business case put forth by the NSW Rural Fire Service was met in spirit through two separate funding allocations.

"We've provided those resources, we'll continue to provide those resources," the Prime Minister said in response to a question from the media following his press conference announcing the callout of the Army Reserve.

"We're not waiting to be asked, we're moving forward and integrating with what's on the ground," he said.

"Over the last many months and particularly in recent weeks I have had the opportunity to engage directly with people and understand their fear, their concern, their frustration, their anxiety, and their anger," he said when asked about how concerned he was.


Up to 3000 ADF Reserve members will be called up to assist

The Prime Minister has announced a "change in posture" for the government as Australian Defence Force Reserve members are called up to assist with the bushfire crisis.

The government will move from responding to requests from the states to instead integrate with local response efforts.

The Governor-General has signed off on the callout of the Army Reserve to fire affected communities.

Initially up to 3000 will be called up, but the Prime Minister later told reporters more will be called up if necessary.


Victorian fires join to create 6000 hectare inferno

Victoria's Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has said a number of fires have begun converging overnight.

The largest is in the Omeo region near the Alpine National Park.

Three fires joined there overnight to create a 6000 hectare fire.

The large inferno is now moving toward Cobungra, and could flare up as conditions worsen throughout the day.