A catastrophic fire warning has been issued for Darwin and Adelaide River areas while most parts of the Territory are under severe fire danger as the Top End faces “dangerous and rare” weather conditions, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
“This is a pretty rare condition for the top end and for the Territory in general. We very rarely see fire dangers this extreme,” senior weather forecaster Chris Kent told the ABC Breakfast show Thursday morning.
“This [situation] is something that we definitely need to prepare for today and take note of.”
An early weather bulletin released by BOM, said that a ridge of high pressure over central Australia and a strengthening ridge over the Queensland coast will maintain hot, dry and very windy conditions across northern NT.
“We’re expecting today to be the gustiest day so far,” Mr Kent said. “We’re also expecting very dry, windy, and, hot condition to peak today resulting in catastrophic fire danger.”
Bushfires had burned across the Top End all week, keeping bushfire crews busy and waterbombing some rural areas. On Thursday morning, a new bushfire along Strickland Road at Adelaide River that had fire officials closing a stretch of the Stuart Highway and warning the public to take safety measures.
A severe fire danger has been declared in Carpentaria, Gregory, Northern Fire Protection Area, Daly South, Arnhem West, and Katherine Fire Protection Area.
The fire weather warning for the Tiwi forecast district has been cancelled, according to BOM.
‘Very dangerous and rare conditions’
The recent “dangerous and rare” weather conditions in the NT have not been experienced in the Top End since 2015, experts say.
“Certainly, in the scientific side of things and the weather side of things, we’re really pushing the boundaries in terms of the historical records,” the BOM’s Todd Smith told the ABC.
“But just don’t let that distract from the fact that it’s going to be a really bad fire (day) and also the day after and even through into Saturday.”
Bushfires NT Chief Fire Control Officer Andrew Turner meanwhile said his men have been gearing up for the dangerous conditions.
“We’re ready to face what comes today,” he said. “This is probably the worst fire weather we would have faced in the last 10 years or so.”
He also said that due to the extreme high dry conditions and the winds in the Top End today, a fire could be near impossible to control.
Several popular tourist and bushwalking sites, including parts of the Litchfield and Nitmiluk national parks, and the Territory Wildlife Park have been forced to close.
Bushfires NT executive director Collene Bremner warned that the best fire precautions may not be sufficient in the extreme weather even when volunteer crews had been working hard throughout the Top End’s dry season to establish fire breaks. Others have been told that if they haven’t already taken fire precautions, it is too late.
“When a fire starts under these conditions, it will go like the clappers,” Ms Bremner said.
“And you’re talking potentially 65 kph winds.”
Ms Bremner urged Territorians under fire warning to clear away anything outdoors that might catch alight including gas bottles, old furniture or other stored flammable equipment.