The flames ravaging a drought-stricken land have claimed another life, the latest casualty coming in South Australia where an flames raged through the day in the Adelaide Hills and other areas.
Police said a car hit a tree, killing the sole occupant, on a roadway shrouded by smoke in the Murraylands, about seven kilometres east of Lameroo.
“It is unclear at this time the exact circumstances of the vehicle collision and the cause of the fire, but they are currently being investigated,” said SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens, who declined to provide further details.
By late on Friday night, SA firefighters aided by a cool change were gaining the upper hand, with only one emergency alert in effect after a day of unprecedented temperatures.
While thousands of firefighters continue to battle bushfires across four states, yesterday it was South Australia’s turn to feel the brunt of the flames’ fury.
Dry lightning strikes impact the greater Adelaide region, sparking fires that forced the evacuation of dozens of homes and businesses, including at Angle Vale in the northern suburbs,
Walls of flame also scoured the Yorke Peninsula near Maitland and another at one and one near Maitland on Yorke Peninsula.
A family-owned winery in the Adelaide Hills lost a prized vineyard but emerging with its buildings largely intact.
Golding Wines, near Lobethal, was in the path of a fire sparked during catastrophic conditions on Friday which burnt through more than 10,000 hectares by the end of the day.
Lucy Golding said its Western Branch Vineyard had been badly damaged but the company’s barn and tasting rooms were okay and the family’s house had also survived.
Her husband Darren had stayed behind to defend the property with the help of Country Fire Service crews.
“The threat has not gone, Darren remains there dealing with spot fires and I know there are many others in the Hills fighting to protect their properties right now,” Ms Golding said in a Facebook post.
“Friends and neighbours are suffering losses. My heart aches for our hills community on this blackest of days. We are down but not out.”
Late on Friday and emergency warning remained in place for the fire which was sparked near Cudlee Creek, most likely when a falling tree brought down power lines.
I got married at Golding wines and it’s vineyard is on fire!
Thoughts with all the @CFSAlerts risking their lives to fight fires near Cudlee Creek, Lobethal and Woodside.
I have 3 family members who live within 5km of here.
— Rob Cornthwaite (@robcornthwaite) December 20, 2019
Victoria is sweltering through its hottest December day on record, with Hopetoun in the state’s north-west cracking 47.4 degreesas 27 fires burned across the state.
Most of the state was also blanketed in smoke from NSW, which had reduced visibility to about one kilometre in places, Victoria’s Bureau of Meteorology said.
At around 5.00 pm on Friday, Melbourne’s temperature was nudging the forecast 44 degrees.
Smoke is extending over #Victoria this morning from the #nswfires and the Gippsland fires, reducing visibility to around 1km in places. The smoke will gradually disperse over the next few hours, although generally hazy conditions are expected right across Victoria today. pic.twitter.com/T8AdM2RoHv
— Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@BOM_Vic) December 20, 2019
Meanwhile, as the NSW Rural Fire Service issued a warning for a day of catastrophic danger across the state on Saturday.
The service was earlier rallying after the deaths of two experienced volunteer firefighters on Thursday, both with partners and babies, as NSW endured another “dangerously hot” day.
Firefighters & aircraft continue to work to slow the spread of the Green Wattle Fire. The fire burns west of the Hume Hwy near Bargo, Buxton, Couridjah & Tahmoor. Weather conditions are expected to deteriorate tomorrow with very hot, dry & windy conditions forecast. #NSWRFS pic.twitter.com/Bdhdzw2LJ3
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 20, 2019
BOM acting NSW manager Jane Golding said temperatures would again rise into the mid-40s, with Penrith expecting a maximum of 47 degrees and coastal areas hitting the mid-to-high 30s.
“That’s dangerously hot weather,” she said.
She said there was some respite on the way for NSW as the southerly change moved eastwards towards the ranges.
A week-long state of emergency has been declared in NSW granting special powers to RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons and a statewide total fire ban remains in place.
On Friday afternoon, the RFS said the Greater Sydney, Illawarra-Shoalhaven and southern ranges would face catastrophic fire danger on Saturday. The Greater Hunter and central ranges will experience extreme fire danger.
Victoria urged not to be complacent
While the cool front that brought relief to South Australia rolled across Victoria, Emergency Victoria stressed the need to be bushfire ready, preparing and cleaning properties and developing an escape plan.
Almost 500 firefighters continue to battle three uncontained fires in East Gippsland with 84 trucks and 41 dozers on the ground, the County Fire Authority says.
Another 118 firefighters are patrolling blazes at Somerton, on Melbourne’s northern fringes, while more than 260 firefighters remain at the contained Tambo Crossing fire.
Public Transport Victoria said extreme heat timetables will be in place on V/Line services, while Yarra Trams said services would be altered on Friday.
People across the three states are being urged to check on their neighbours, infants, the elderly and expectant mothers in the extreme heat.
“Asking someone inside to escape the heat of the day to see a film, swim in one of our pools or relax in an air-conditioned room could help prevent them becoming seriously unwell,” councillor Beverley Pinder said.
Firefighters were on high alert as the punishing heatwave pushed into south-east Queensland, creating scorching conditions and severe fire danger.
Almost 70 fires are burning across Queensland, up from 55 on Thursday, as the fire threat deepens.
Conditions are forecast to improve along the Queensland coast into next week but residents should remain on alert, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
“It is vital not to become complacent when hearing these continued warnings,’ forecaster Rosa Hoff told media on Friday
“The danger is as real as it was the first day we experienced it in Queensland.”