Urgent evacuation orders have been issued in two states, with thousands of people told to immediately leave ahead of looming fire dangers.
A bushfire burning southeast of Perth jumped containment lines, with lives and homes at risk and residents urged to leave if the way is clear.
Meanwhile tens of thousands of visitors and residents in Victoria’s East Gippsland were on Sunday warned to vacate the region ahead of ‘severe’ fire conditions on Monday.
About 30,000 holidaymakers in Lakes Entrance along with locals have been given the blunt warning.
“We are asking you to now leave East Gippsland from that area, east of Bairnsdale, along the coast there, into the parks, into the forest,” Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said on Sunday.
“You should not be there tomorrow, and we want you to get out now.”
A section of the highway connecting the easternmost part of the state with NSW was closed due to bushfire but has since been re-opened.
The bushfire threatening the Wingan River area remained under an emergency warning, burning out of control 20km east of Cann River.
Bureau of Meteorology Kevin Parkyn said a wind change in East Gippsland about midnight was “very problematic when it comes to fires and the landscape”.
“It’s a very serious life-threatening situation. Make no mistake about it,” he said.
The message today if you are in Forests or Parks in East Gippsland time to Leave Now, the large fires in the landscapes will get much bigger tomorrow. Leave Now, it will be very very dangerous be in the bush today or tomorrow. Leave Now! @EMV_news @DELWP_Vic pic.twitter.com/4lYQUrXuaf
— Chris Hardman (@FFMVic_Chief) December 29, 2019
The temperature is expected to soar into the 40s on Monday across Victoria.
Melbourne is expected to reach 43C on Monday – making it the third time this month it’s tipped over 40C, which hasn’t happened since 1897.
The combination of the hot, dry windy conditions coupled with the wind change across the state on Monday will fuel the nasty fire conditions.
If visitors and locals refuse to budge from the area, Mr Crisp warned there won’t be enough trucks to go around and people may be stuck for days due to road closures.
More than 70 helicopters and planes will be working on Monday if conditions allow.
Everyone in East Gippsland must leave the area today due to the fire danger forecast for tomorrow. Do not travel to this area. It is not possible to provide support and aid to all the visitors currently in the East Gippsland region.
— CFA Updates (@CFA_Updates) December 29, 2019
People in Goongerah and Martins Creek have also been told to evacuate as a bushfire burning easterly towards their communities was still not under control on Sunday.
A watch and act warning is in place for Goongerah, Martins Creek, Nurran, Sardine Creek and Errinundra, which states “leaving now is the safest option” before conditions change.
A warning has been downgraded to the lowest level Smokeytown and Springmount.
A warning has been downgraded to a watch and act alert for Bonang, Cabanandra, Deddick Valley, Dellicknora and Tubbut in the state’s East Gippsland region.
Meanwhile about 9000 festivalgoers have been told to pack up and leave Falls Festival in Lorne with severe weather on the way, including winds up to 100km/h and storms.
Residents have been urged to leave the region around Stirling Range National Park, southeast of Perth, after a blaze jumped containment lines.
The fire was upgraded to emergency level and Emergency WA says lives and homes in the area are under threat as conditions are constantly changing.
A lightning strike sparked the blaze, which has already burnt more than 10,000 hectares of scrub.
About 20 Parks and Wildlife Service firefighters are working to strengthen containment lines.
Another flame spread over containment lines at a mine site in regional WA has prompted a Watch and Act alert in the Shire of Coolgardie.
There is a possible threat to lives and homes as a fire is approaching and conditions are changing.
The blaze has caused the closure of the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway between Norseman and Coolgardie.
The fire has burnt 148,000 hectares and is moving in a westerly direction.
New fires are likely across NSW as New Year’s Eve approaches amid deteriorating conditions with temperatures expected to peak on the last day of 2019.
A total of 85 fires were burning on Sunday morning with 36 not contained.
Some 2000 firefighters were in the field preparing for worsening conditions on Tuesday, the Rural Fire Service posted on Twitter.
Total fire bans have been declared in the southern and central ranges, while 11 NSW regions and the ACT will be under “very high” fire danger.
The @BOM_au is forecasting conditions to worsen over coming days, particularly on Tuesday with the possibility of Extreme fire danger. There's two areas under a Total Fire Ban today, the Central Ranges and Southern Ranges, with widespread Very High fire Danger. #NSWRFS pic.twitter.com/Etx0qDXP5S
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 28, 2019
Penrith in western Sydney will rise to 41C on Sunday as a fresh heatwave kicks in, while regional centres in the Hunter, central west, central and southern tablelands will feel the heat with temperatures well above 35C.
Temperatures are expected to peak on Tuesday, with New Year’s Eve forecasts of more than 40C across western Sydney and in regional NSW.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said deteriorating weather conditions are expected over the coming days.
Fairly widespread severe fire conditions are expected on Monday, especially through the state’s southeast, Mr Fitzsimmons said on Sunday.
Heading into Tuesday, these conditions will intensify as severe fire danger extends to the state’s central west and the Hunter region, combining with extreme fire danger forecast for broad parts of the state including the southern ranges, the Illawarra/South coast and likely down to the Monaro region, he said.
Fires of considerable focus include the Gospers Mountain and the Grose Valley fires, northwest of Sydney, the Green Wattle Creek fire, southwest of Sydney, and the Currowan fire in the Shoalhaven region.
Instability in the afternoon over the last few days – dry lightning storms and thunderstorm activity – has also created a number of new fires, Mr Fitzsimmons said.
This includes one blaze near Tarcutta in the Snowy Valleys which was on Saturday afternoon raised to “emergency” level as it burned erratically towards the east but has since been downgraded back to “advice”.
“There is every prospect of new fires as we head into the deteriorating weather conditions over the coming days,” he said.
Catastrophic bushfire conditions have been forecast for three South Australian districts including the Adelaide Hills where a major blaze continues to smoulder.
Monday’s forecasts of high temperatures and rising winds have authorities fearing the worst and a possible repeat of the devastating blaze 10 days ago that burnt through 25,000 hectares and destroyed more than 80 homes.
Country Fire Service chief officer Mark Jones said it was regrettable that the same conditions had returned so soon.
“Particularly when firefighters have been labouring for five days already before Christmas and for five days since Christmas in the field addressing the fire and tackling hotspots to black them out,” he said.
“The potential for hot-spot breakouts tomorrow is incredible across the whole fire zone.”
Catastrophic conditions will stretch across the Adelaide Hills, through the mid-north and across to Yorke Peninsula.
Other areas of the state will have either extreme or severe warnings in place, prompting the CFS to call in extra firefighting aircraft from Victoria.
The worst of the conditions will occur on Monday morning, which Mr Jones said was unusual and meant people considering leaving should be ready to make the call early.
Temperatures are forecast to reach 40C in Adelaide ahead of a cool change just after midday. That change that will bring the worst of the conditions, with wind speeds to rise to about 40km/h.
Mr Jones said Monday’s forecast winds most likely risked fire breakouts along the southern flank in the Adelaide Hills fire zone, but shifting conditions meant that the whole fire perimeter could be at risk at different times.