‘Much-Needed’ Rain Extinguishes a Third of Australia Fires in a Day
People commute to work on Feb.07 in Sydney, Australia. A severe weather warning is in place for Sydney and most of the NSW coast, with 130mm of rain predicted in Sydney alone. Brendon Thorne / Getty Images
The fire ravaged state of New South Wales in Australia received much-needed torrential downpours that doused active fires, reducing the total number by a third, as The Guardian reported. The number of active fires dropped from more than 60 to 42 in just one day.
Authorities in New South Wales warned of flash flooding on Australia’s east coast and in Sydney. However, they were happy to welcome the rain, which was the most recorded in over a year, according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, as the BBC reported.
“It was fantastic to wake up to much-needed rain this morning!” Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore wrote in a tweet.
It was fantastic to wake up to much-needed rain this morning!
Today has already been the wettest Sydney day in 15 months, and thankfully it’s raining across NSW where we need it most. https://t.co/FsBxow8Zuv
— Clover Moore (@CloverMoore) February 7, 2020
New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons expressed optimism that the rains will continue to help put out the fires in the coming days. Seventeen of the remaining 42 fires are not contained, as the AP reported.
“The rain is good for business and farms as well as being really good for quenching some of these fires we’ve been dealing with for many, many months,” said Fitzsimmons, as the AP reported.
The Rural Fire Service is taking advantage of the conditions to conduct back burning operations in an effort to contain more fires, as The Guardian reported.
“This has been an absolute welcome disruption to that weather pattern and a massive reprieve and relief to so many people right across New South Wales,” Fitzsimmons said to The Guardian. “Obviously we don’t want to see lots of widespread damage and destruction from flooding, but it is certainly a welcome change to the relentless campaign of hot, dry weather resulting in widespread damaging, destructive fires that we’ve experienced for too long now.”
The fire officials were ecstatic over the help the rains provided.
“This is that constant, steady, decent rainfall that we’ve been praying for for so long,” NSW Rural Fire Service spokeswoman Angela Burford said to the BBC.
“This isn’t just one of those scattered showers we saw a month ago. This is really helping our firefighters, and in some places, giving them a well-needed rest.”
Yet, she cautioned that while New South Wales is getting some relief along the coast, Australia is not out of the woods yet. There is very little rain around Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory. Burford warned that the largest blazes there had received little rain and were still a major concern for the fire service.
Firefighters are unable to contain major blazes across Australia’s southeast coast without heavy rain. The rain is expected to continue through next week, providing relief to drought stricken areas. It will also move southwest from the northeastern coast over the next week, which will be the first substantial soakings to reach dozens of fires, according to the AP.
Next week, the heavy rainfall may help douse the fires near Canberra and in Victoria, but that rainfall will carry with it warnings of water contamination from ash and silt, according to The Guardian.
While New South Wales has suffered the most from this season’s brushfires, which scientists say is exacerbated by the climate crisis, Victoria and South Australia have not yet reached peak fire danger. The fire season is predicted to last through April, according to the BBC.