News National Fires sparked as heatwave grips Victoria, South Australia
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Fires sparked as heatwave grips Victoria, South Australia

Heatwave
Sarah Kinsella
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4pm (AEDT) weather update
• Adelaide: 35.9 degrees (forecast 42)
• Melbourne: 41.5 degrees (forecast 43)

After bushfires destroyed 44 homes and killed one person in Western Australia, emergency services are on standby as a stifling heatwave moves into South Australia and Victoria.

Early on Tuesday, temperatures rose rapidly, with the heat expected to peak at 6pm in Victoria and mid-afternoon South Australia.

At 1pm Adelaide was at a sweltering 43.5 degrees, 1.5 degrees over the forecast maximum, and Melbourne 38.7. Canberra was also headed for high temperatures reaching 33.6 degrees.

Adelaide and Melbourne were both under total fire bans as emergency services warned to stay cool, hydrated and to look after vulnerable people and animals.

Grass fires were burning in both states, with a fast-moving fire out of control at Little River in Rothwell, Victoria putting homes at risk with an emergency warning issued for the area.

CFA crews battled to protect an undisclosed number of homes in Little River, Rothwell that were less than 200 metres from the fire front.

The grassfire is travelling quickly in a southerly direction, roughly towards Corio Bay, with 21 emergency vehicles in attendance. Residents on Edgar Road were advised to seek shelter. The fire is approximately 25 kilometres from the SES control centre.

Trains and trams have been changed in both states, with Victoria cutting speeds to 90km/h temperature reaches 36 degrees, which is likely to cause widespread delays.

In Adelaide, services have been cut back to take stress off the lines.

A similar heatwave in January 2009 contributed to 370 deaths in Victoria and boosted metropolitan ambulance call-outs by about 50 per cent on the hottest days, according to the Department of Health.

Paramedics are struggling to cope with the influx of heat-related patients despite re-calling all available staff for this week.

Ambulance Victoria operations manager Paul Holman urged those without medical emergencies to seek alternate treatment.

“We’ll be stretched, there’s no two ways about it,” Mr Holman said.

Medical experts have warned that while it may be tempting to beat the heat with a beer, excessive alcohol consumption is not the way to cool off.

“Contrary to their image as thirst quenchers, beer and other alcoholic drinks are diuretics, disrupting our kidneys ability to maintain hydration,” Turning Point director Professor Dan Lubman said.

“This is the last thing you need on a stinking hot day.”

WorkSafe is urging people to work smart to prevent heat-related illness.

“If you or your employees are working outdoors, look out for one another and look out for signs and symptoms such as heat stroke, fainting, heat exhaustion, cramps, rashes (also called prickly heat) and fatigue,” WorkSafe Safety director Jarrod Edwards said.

The Bureau of Meteorology last week launched a pilot project of heatwave maps to give people a better indication of weather conditions beyond the temperature.

The definitions including “extreme” and “severe” are relevant to specific location, rather than what is the hottest temperature.

Bureau of Meteorology
Today’s extreme conditions forecast shown in a heatwave map by the Bureau of Meteorology.

Assistant director of the Bureau’s weather services Alasdair Hainsworth said the service would help reduce the human and economic impact of heatwaves.

“The heatwave service provides a measure of the build-up of ‘excess’ heat and will provide a more advanced indicator than temperature alone in anticipating the impact of heat stress,” he told the ABC.

“The pilot service uses a heatwave intensity index that assesses the build up of heat over a period of time, taking into account the long-term climate of a location and the maximum and minimum temperatures leading up to a heatwave event.”

Stay tuned for more updates throughout the day.

Melbourne

• Forecast: 43

• Warnings: Severe Fire Danger is forecast for North Central, South West and Central. A grass fire is out of control in Rothwell.

• Transport: Delays expected later in the day. A MetroTrains spokesperson says that all metropolitan trains will slow to a maximum of 90 km/h when the temperature reaches 36 degrees, which is likely to cause widespread delays.

Several rural train services, including Warrnambool to the City, will be replaced by coaches.

There are also delays on the Williamstown line due to signal faults. It is not yet clear if these faults have been caused by the heat.

• Health advice:

• Weather facts: The Bureau of Meteorology’s Richard Carlyon says the hot spell is unusual for Victoria.

“Over the whole 150 years of climate records we don’t even average one 40 degree day each year,” he said.

Adelaide

• Forecast: 42

• Warnings: Fire weather warnings for North East Pastoral, Mid North, Mount Lofty Ranges, Yorke Peninsula, Kangaroo Island, Upper South East and Lower South East forecast districts.

Grass fires ongoing at Northern Expressway Waterloo Corner, Menglers Hill Road at Angaston, Cape Willoughby Road, Antechamber Bay, Golf Course Road, Yalunda Flat and Flinders Highway, Venus Bay.

Transport: Metropolitan train timetables have been changed to cope with the heat. Adelaide Metro said afternoon services would run every 15 minutes instead of every seven with longer trains running to ensure no loss of capacity. Full details here.

Heat health advice:

Weather facts:

The Bureau of Meteorology says the Adelaide heatwave could be the third worst on record, after 2009 and 1908, when the temperature stayed over 40 degrees for six days in a row.

The State Records office were also using the heat wave as an excuse to look back to a 1950s summer at Henley Beach.

Tasmania

Fire permits are now required for Northern and Southern Municipalities of Tasmania and a total fire ban is in place for for the Southern Region until midnight.

Hobart expected to hit 37 degrees.

Areas in the South East and Upper Derwent Valley are expected to reach highs of 39 degrees. Fire danger is severe in the Upper Derwent Valley and very high on the East Coast, Midlands and South East Tasmania.

Residents are advised to immediately leave their homes if there is an outbreak of fire near them, and only choose to stay if they are very well prepared.

— with ABC, AAP, Melissa Mack and Jackson Stiles