Stunning political holiday departure as fire horror returns
After a brief weather reprieve, the bushfire danger across large parts of Australia is about to ramp up again - but a key figure in tackling the blazes has gone on holiday.
Less than a week after Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologised for taking his family on a Christmas break to Hawaii as hundreds of fires raged across the nation, NSW's Emergency Services Minister David Elliott is taking a trip to the UK and France.
He told The Daily Telegraph he was considering cancelling his trip, but eventually decided to push ahead with it.
"Bushfire-affected communities and firefighters are always at the front of my mind during this difficult time in NSW," Mr Elliott told the newspaper in a statement.
Prisons Minister Anthony Roberts will take over in his absence.
The departure comes as the state, along with Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, prepare for the worst due to an "extreme" heatwave that's building over the coming days.
In NSW alone yesterday, more than 1400 firefighters took advantage of milder conditions by back-burning to slow the spread of around 70 fires still burning across the state.
A massive shout out to 100s and 100s of volunteers that gave up their Christmas and Boxing Day to cut lines, backburn, mop up and black out. This is extremely important work to try and contain fires ahead of deteriorating weather early next week. Thank you. #NSWRFS #nswfires pic.twitter.com/TnJA46vN4i— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 26, 2019
NSW Rural Fire Service says this morning there's a "very high" fire danger rating for nine regions in the state and that 33 fires are currently uncontained.
Very high fire danger is forecast for the ACT, Greater Hunter and central and southern ranges.
Highs of 36C are expected in Canberra, while regional centres such as Mudgee, Goulburn, Tamworth, Dubbo and Griffith are set for days above 35C.
"Between Thursday and Saturday we are starting to see severe heatwave conditions in the southern parts of the state, extending over a more significant area of NSW into the weekend and next week," Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Rose Barr told AAP. "The fire danger will worsen into the new week, with Monday and Tuesday most likely to be the most significant fire weather days."
In South Australia, the fire in Adelaide Hills has now scorched over 25,000 hectares and firefighters are working around the clock to extinguish the blaze.
An advice warning has been issued today for Cudlee Creek, Castambul, Chain of Ponds, Charleston, Cudlee Creek, Gumeracha, Harrogate, Inglewood, Kenton Valley, Lobethal, Millbrook, Mount Beevor, Mount Torrens, Paracombe, Tungkillo and Woodside.
The Federal Government said the Australian Defence Force (ADF) will increase its support to fire authorities, sending specialist personnel to help battle the blazes in NSW.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the additional support this morning, saying the deployment will include bulldozers, bulk water carriers and troops.
"We'll continue to do everything in our power to ensure our fireys have the resources and support they need," Mr Morrison said in a statement.
"We've already got our Defence Forces providing helicopter search and rescue, ground transport, accommodation, meals and re-fuelling. We've boosted our support for water bombing planes and helicopters by $11 million."
Very High Fire Danger Rating for many parts of the state. Almost 1,300 firefighters in the field. Over 70 bush & grass fires, 33 uncontained. Deteriorating conditions forecast so discuss your bush fire survival plan & know what you'll do if fire threatens. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/3405OAa4DD— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 26, 2019
Planning will also begin for the recovery effort and the clean-up of affected areas, which could involve support from the ADF if requested, the PM said.
"Disaster recovery payments of $23 million have also flowed to affected families and businesses with more to come," he said.
"My Ministers and I remain in constant contact with our state and territory counterparts and fire chiefs and we stand ready to deliver whatever extra help they ask of us."
-- with AAP