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Firefighters battle more than 100 blazes across Australian state

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Firefighters conduct back burning measures to secure residential areas from encroaching bushfires at the Mangrove area in Central Coast, some 90-110 kilometres north of Sydney on December 7, 2019. – Bushfires are common in the country but scientists say this year’s season has come earlier and with more intensity due to a prolonged drought and climatic conditions fuelled by global warming. (Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP)

Some 2,800 firefighters have been battling more than 100 bushfires across the state of New South Wales (NSW) in eastern Australia as of Saturday.

This includes a “mega fire” in the north-west of Sydney that has threatened homes.

The state Rural Fire Service (RFS) said that the 60-kilometre fire front, known as the Gospers Mountain fire, is continuing to ravage several national parks, including Wollemi, Yengo and Dharug, in the Hunter and Hawkesbury region.

The blaze can only be described as a “mega fire,” Mary Lyons-Buckett, deputy mayor of the Hawkesbury City Council said on Saturday.

The state fire service said that it could take weeks to put out the fire, which combined, has already burned about 350,000 hectares of land.

“These will take many weeks to put out – and only when we get good rain,” RFS said.

The closest bushfire area is 75 km north-west of Sydney’s city centre.

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Public health experts have warned people in Sydney and other bushfire-affected areas to prepare for more severe and longer-lasting episodes of air pollution.

Of the more than 100 blazes burning across the state, the RFS said that none are at emergency level and 17 are at watch-and-act level.

With strengthening winds and no respite in temperatures, the threat of conditions worsening looms.

On Friday, RFS said more than 680 homes have been destroyed and 250 others have been damaged by bushfires across NSW this bushfire season which started early in October.

Six people have died and more than 2 million hectares of land across the state has already burned.

Also on Saturday, a helicopter aiding firefighting efforts in the area crashed near Newcastle.

The pilot was alone on board and sustained just minor injuries but was treated at the scene.

RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said on Saturday that the worst bushfire condition was predicted for Tuesday.

“We are expecting a return to another hot day, particularly Tuesday.

“We’re expecting to see temperatures climb into the high 30s or early 40s right across parts of NSW.

“So a lot of work ahead over the coming days, particularly in anticipation of what’s expected,” he said.

RFS said firefighters will continue to conduct backburning, as well as establish containment lines using dozers, this week which is critical to fight the blaze as the weather condition deteriorates.

The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast more heat and wind in the coming days, especially after Monday, with a maximum of 43 degrees Celsius for Penrith, west of Sydney and 44 degrees at Singleton in the Hunter Valley, where bushfire is wreaking havoc currently.

Meanwhile, in Queensland, a state next to New South Wales, more than 40 fires are burning across the state, with with several “prepare to leave” warnings in place, including one near the city of Brisbane.

At least 207,000 hectares of land have burned since the start of the bushfire season and about two dozen homes lost as hot and dry weather continues to fan the fires across the state’s eastern coastline.

On Saturday, a shipping container loaded with fireworks has exploded, destroying a home and subsequent fast-moving blaze threatening several other homes in bushland at Bundamba, west of Brisbane.

Queensland Police said two people were treated on scene for smoke inhalation and heat stress. An emergency situation has been declared for the whole area as the fire continues to advance. (dpa/NAN)

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