Australian firefighters are struggling to control a large bush fire that has already destroyed 40% of UNESCO’s World Heritage-listed Fraser Island before the heat wave hit Monday.
Fires on the world’s largest sand island off the east coast of Australia have been rampant for over six weeks, consuming a large area of the island’s unique forests.
Temperatures are projected to peak at 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit) on Monday, and heat waves will hit the entire region, raising concerns that the flames will burn further as temperatures rise.
“The vegetation on Fraser Island is very dry and very dry, so it’s easy to catch fire,” incident controller James Haig told AFP.
About two-thirds of Queensland, including Fraser Island, is currently suffering from drought.
Climate change is spurring more extreme droughts, wildfires and cyclones in Australia, according to recent reports from the country’s top science and meteorological agencies.
Firefighters on Fraser Island are not only fighting “very harsh weather conditions,” but also suffer from restricted access to flames far north of the island, Haig said.
According to Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services, the fire was burning in two fronts on 74,000 hectares (183,000 acres) (42% of the island), but did not threaten property.
However, due to the recent approach to the settlement, authorities have banned new visitors from traveling to popular vacation destinations and restricted ferry services until further notice.
According to Haig, as many as 10 water bombers have been deployed to fight the fire, including a mission to protect culturally important indigenous ruins.
The plane dropped about 250,000 liters of water on Saturday alone, but Haig said these efforts “do not stop the fire” but merely slow down its progress.
“We really need rain, and unfortunately it’s unlikely that it will rain for a while,” he said.
The Queensland Fire Department has imposed a seven-day fire ban in the area from the end of Monday to prepare firefighters for long-term and difficult weather conditions.
Known for its abundance of dingos and native wild dogs, Fraser Island is a World Heritage Site of rainforests, freshwater dune lakes, and an ever-evolving complex dune system.
Also known as K’gari, which means paradise in the local Buttula people’s language, the spectacular environment attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists annually.
Heig said firefighters are trying to balance the control of flames believed to have been caused by illegal campfires with the need to prevent further environmental damage.
Small wildfires have struck elsewhere in Queensland after a weekend heat wave plunged records in southeastern Australia. In Sydney, city dwellers got hot in two days above 40 degrees Celsius.
More than 50 wildfires broke out across New South Wales on Monday and are projected to return to heatwaves on Tuesday.
Australia is still upset by the devastating 2019-20 fire, which burned down an area about the size of Britain and killed 33 people after tens of thousands were displaced.
The climate-fueled fire season also killed or evacuated nearly 3 billion animals, causing an estimated US $ 7 billion damage to the Australian economy.
The country is one of the world’s leading fossil fuel exporters, and despite recent polls showing that Australians are increasingly concerned about climate change, the conservative government is working on carbon emissions. I’m lagging behind.
Sydney records the hottest night of November as heat waves hit the city
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Australian Bush Fire Attacks Heritage-Registered Island
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