Australia: Two Bushfires Merge to Form Single Mega Blaze
The East Ournie Creek and Dunns Road fires near the Victoria border upgraded after joining
Two already-massive bushfires near the New South Wales-Victoria border in Australia have merged to form a single, devastating mega blaze, according to reports.
On Friday morning, the East Ournie Creek and Dunns Road fires near the Victoria border worsened and were upgraded to watch and act level.
By lunchtime, however, they had joined to form one mega-fire as 20kmh winds fanned the flames while temperatures hit 37C.
Including sections that have burnt out, the blazes have both covered half-a-million hectares - roughly five times the size of the Australian capital Canberra.
Extreme danger has been forecast for the fireground by The Rural Fire Service, who warned of "erratic behavior" due to the flames moving and changing direction quickly.
The bushfire has already passed through the towns of Batlow, Kunama, Talbingo, and Wondalga.
Residents in Goobragandra Valley, Brindabella, Mundaroo, Ournie, Mannus, and Tooma have been told to keep watch and prepare to evacuate if necessary.
"If you are in the area south of Tumbarumba to Khancoban, and west of the Kosciuszko National Park, you should leave early," the RFS website says.
"Do not be in the path of these fires."
As 130 blazes rage in NSW, RFS Commissioner Shayne Fitzsimmons said: "The conditions are difficult because we'll see hot temperatures, high 30s, low 40s.
"It's the hot, dry winds that will prove once again to be the real challenge."
He added: "We want people out, into safer places and the maps identify a number of towns and villages where you would better off going for the day and not being in harm's way.
"The firegrounds are going to be tested and, as we have seen in the last couple of months, we only need an ember or two to get out to start an outbreak and start presenting challenges."
The Rural Fire Service has placed total fire bans on 10 regions across the state on Friday due to hot and windy weather.
An extreme fire warning is in place for the southern slopes while severe fire warnings have been issued for the Monaro alpine region, ACT, southern ranges and eastern Riverina.
A southwesterly wind change is expected to impact inland fires on Friday afternoon with a gusty southerly change forecast to impact coastal towns from the evening.
Temperatures are forecast to reach 46C in central NSW, 43C at Tumut in the Riverina, 42C at Penrith in western Sydney and 36C at Nowra on the South Coast.
Total fire bans in place in north-western NSW, greater Sydney, central ranges, the Illawarra and Shoalhaven, southern ranges, far south coast, Monaro alpine, southern slopes, eastern Riverina and northern Riverina.
NSW fire crews took advantage of cooler conditions this week by backburning and strengthening containment lines before the forecast heat.
Favorable conditions this week have also helped energy crews restore power to most South Coast and Southern Highlands communities where bushfires caused widespread damage over the weekend.
It comes as exhausted firefighters battling fierce blazes on Kangaroo Island rejoiced as rain fell on Friday morning.
They had been gearing up for a horror day of action after multiple fires flared up overnight but downpours brought reprieve for fireys and locals alike.
Kingscote, which is home to 1,800 on the island's north-east, was isolated after a spreading fire inland prompted a watch and act warning for the town.
Last night terrified residents fled to an evacuation center on the town's oval while others slept in caravans at the jetty to be close to the water.
It was the first time warnings had extended so far east since the bushfires began on the island on 20 December.
Officials are hoping that cooler temperatures of 21C will bring respite today and tomorrow before the mercury hits 24C on Sunday and 29C on Monday.