SYDNEY - Queensland is facing its worst bushfire threat in recorded history, as more than 50 fires burn across the Australian state. Further south, crews are battling a similar number of outbreaks in New South Wales.
This is the worst start to the bushfire season on record in Queensland. Dozens of fires are burning, and several homes have been destroyed.
Tracy and Dennis Beggs were forced to flee their property as the flames advanced.
TB: “Those fires went through the back there like a freight train. It was, I do not know, like a plane going past. It was moving so fast.”
DB: “You could see the flames and you could just hear the roar of them.”
More than 100 blazes are burning across northern New South Wales state and southern parts of Queensland. They have been fanned by high winds and tinder dry conditions. The danger is not expected to pass until Wednesday.
Hundreds of firefighters have been deployed, and dozens of homes have been saved from the blazes. A volunteer firefighter was badly injured when flames engulfed a firetruck near the town of Tenterfield, suffering serious burns to his hands, legs and face. A fire near the city of Armidale in New South Wales covers more than 60,000 hectares.
Australia’s entire east coast is facing an above-average risk of bushfires when summer starts.
David Littleproud, the ninister for natural disaster and emergency services, says firefighters will be equipped to deal with the threats.
“The reality is my job is to make sure that those men and women that are prepared to put their lives on the line for you and me have the equipment they need, they are given the tools and resources they need, they have the science to understand that these events could become more severe, and how do we equip them to actually not only keep us safe, but keep them safe,” he said.
Officials are warning some of the fires could burn for weeks. Experts say Australia’s annual bushfire season is starting earlier and lasting longer. Climate change is a key factor, as is a long drought, which has exacerbated the fire threat with summer still more than two months away.
Most wildfires are caused by lightning strikes, while others are set accidentally by faulty power lines or farming equipment. Some, however, are the work of arsonists.
Bushfires are a part of Australia's environment. Many of the nation’s native plants are fire prone and extremely combustible.