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The fires raging across Australia are spreading so far that officials aren’t sure they have enough fire trucks.
“If you call for help, you may not get it,” the New South Wales police said in a statement.
As of Monday, around 100 hundred fires were burning across more than 2 million acres in Queensland and New South Wales. In an attempt to scrounge up more resources, both states declared emergencies Sunday. The flames have already killed at least three people and level 150 structures, and officials only expect the situation to get worse. They warned the fires would reach “catastrophic” levels, the highest danger rating, in the greater Sydney area by Tuesday. That’s never happened since rating was introduced in 2009, according to Australia’s ABC News.
“Catastrophic is off the conventional scale,” said New South Wales Rural Fire Service, Shane Fitzsimmons, at a press conference. “It’s where people die.” He also warned this “could be the most dangerous bushfire week this nation has ever seen.”
The fire season in Australia usually doesn’t pick up until the summer months, but the country’s been facing a historic drought, which has dragged on for years in some areas. Even New Zealanders reported seeing smoke from the fires from across the Tasman Sea.
Many of the fires are still largely unconfined, and the fire service was asking any volunteer firefighters available to report for duty. On Tuesday morning, flames were encroaching on Sydney, the country’s largest city, and more than 100 schools will be closed Tuesday across the region.
October was southern Australia’s driest month on record, and other parts of the country risk running out of water by mid 2020 if the situation doesn’t improve. It barely drizzled in northern Queensland Monday and rained less than a millimeter in three other small patches of the mainland, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. The forecast had been for no rain at all.
“The team can’t comprehensively identify a day in our records where there hasn’t been rain somewhere on continental Australia,” a bureau spokesman told the Sydney Morning Herald.
The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change predicted in 2014 that fire season in Australia would get longer and more severe as the world heats up. But Australia’s conservative government has largely ignored the commitments it made under the Paris Agreement and increased its greenhouse gas emissions. The Prime Minister, who has blasted climate activism as “economic sabotage,” has also threatened to criminalize the growing protests.
“My only thoughts today are with those who have lost their lives and their families,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday when asked whether the fires had anything to do with climate change, according to the BBC.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack had some harsh words those trying to link climate change to the fires, too.
“They don’t need the ravings of some pure enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time when they’re trying to save their homes,” said of the victims of the fires on ABC Radio National on Monday.
Cover image: Firefighters look for spot fires in Old Bar, 350km north of Sydney on November 11, 2019. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) (Photo by PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images)