Kangaroo Island residents have gathered at the water’s edge in Kingscote as a second wave of deadly bushfires swept across the island overnight.
The ABC reported it had been a, “long sleepless night for many” on the island as roads out of the island’s main town have closed and the airport evacuated.
“After the emergency warning was extended to just west of Kingscote, the island’s biggest town [population 1800], residents started moving in to safer ground – many going to the relief centre at the oval, others to the Kingscote jetty wanting to stay near the water,” reporter Casey Briggs said on Friday morning.
“People have been arriving through the night. It’s smoky, there’s ash in the air and it’s also been lightly raining this morning and conditions remain erratic.
Two emergency warnings remained in place, one for the area around the south coast town of Vivonne Bay and one for the central districts around Parndana as a further 55 firefighters prepare to land on the island.
Power has been cut to more than 850 properties following a fire-related outage on the main supply line to the west of the Island.
The main supply powerline runs through the fire grounds near Parndana from Kingscote and goes on to supply western parts of the Island.
— Bureau of Meteorology, South Australia (@BOM_SA) January 9, 2020
The CFS is confident Kingscote will remain a safer place but chief officer Mark Jones has warned against complacency with cooler conditions and rain forecast.
“The condition of the fires is such that it’s unlikely that they will be extinguished by the rain, and they will continue to burn,” Mr Jones said.
The fire has already destroyed 160,000 hectares across Kangaroo Island, including most of the famed Flinders Chase National Park.
It has claimed two lives, with outback pilot Dick Lang, 78, and his 43-year-old son Clayton killed as they returned to their home.
The blaze first broke out on December 20 from a lightning strike but escalated rapidly last Friday before jumping containment lines again on Thursday.
Meanwhile, blazes are expected to return to Victoria and NSW as worsening weather conditions banish any hope of a respite from Australia’s bushfire crisis.
Perth was confronted late on Thursday with its own fire crisis as an out-of-control blaze invaded the Western Australian capital’s south-eastern suburbs.
The fast-moving bushfire, fanned by wind gusts, was being fought by almost 200 firefighters, working through the night to stop it heading towards more densely populated areas.
An emergency warning is in place across the suburbs of Baldivis, Mardella, Hopeland, Wellard, Casuarina and Oldbury
The Perth fire burned through 1000 hectares in just four hours after starting near the Kwinana Freeway in Baldivis.
Back in the east, winds are expected to have a similar impact on Friday’s revived fires.
“After a relative respite in the weather this week we are expecting another significant spike in conditions,” Bureau of Meteorology spokesman Grahame Reader told reporters.
The hot, dry winds expected early in the day will fan fire behaviour, which would be bad enough for exhausted emergency crews and firefighters still battling to get a handle on the damage that has scarred the south-east corner of the continent.
But then the situation could worsen as a gusty southerly change sweeps over the area in the afternoon and turns the fires’ flanks into new and much wider fronts.
“Things look very grim,” fire expert and former CSIRO researcher David Packham told The New Daily.
“The fire event for NSW will be as bad or worse as the north-east of Victoria,” Mr Packham said.
“The Forest Fire Danger Index for the southern slopes and eastern and southern Riverina could hardly be worse,” he added.
“Grass fires under these conditions can travel at 27-30 kph. This is about as bad as it gets.”
In Victoria, where an unprecedented state of disaster has been extended into the weekend, two emergency warnings were made for eastern areas of the state.
Two “evacuate now” alerts were also issued for a northeastern Victoria area west of Mt Buffalo that included Bennies and Cheshunt South.
Ahead of a potential spike on Friday, emergency services and Premier Daniel Andrews pleaded with Victorians to leave fire-danger areas when alerts were issued.
“If it is safe to get out, then you must get out. That is the only way to guarantee your safety,” Mr Andrews said on Thursday.
NSW on alert
Meanwhile, expectations are grim in NSW, where The Rural Fire Service has placed total fire bans on 10 regions across the state.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday said HMAS Adelaide remains on standby off the Eden coast and is assisting fire authorities with refuelling and resupplying.
NSW fire crews took advantage of cooler conditions this week by back-burning and strengthening containment lines before the forecast heat.
A water-bombing aircraft tasked to help contain the Clyde Mountain blaze near Batemans Bay crashed into a dam near Eden on Thursday.
The pilot, who was the only person onboard, escaped without serious injures.
Authorities, meanwhile, have confirmed that 1870 NSW homes have been destroyed since the start of the fire season, with more than 750 damaged. Almost 200 facilities and 3774 outbuildings have also been razed.
“Many rural cities have been experiencing power outages due to the bushfires, eftpos machines aren’t working, leaving those with just cashless debit cards unable to use them.” https://t.co/kyHDxc03nl
— Monique Hurley (@monique_hurley) January 7, 2020
More than 120 fires continued to burn across NSW on Thursday afternoon, with more than 2500 firefighters on the front line.