Air pollution records broken in Sydney
Sydney residents have now choked their way through the "longest period" of air pollution on record for New South Wales, authorities have confirmed.
And there is likely to be no let-up from the smoke haze and raining ash until at least the weekend.
The confirmation comes as both NSW and Queensland face a possible torrid day of bushfires as temperatures soar up and down Australia's east coast. Sydney could hit 34C today and Brisbane almost 40C as baking hot air is sucked in by westerlies from the interior.
Across the Nullarbor, Perth is also scorching and is looking at highs of 39C.
Queensland fire crews have been unable to beat back a large bushfire that is threatening lives and homes in the state's southeast corner near Toowoomba.
Severe fire warnings are in place for the state's southeast.
Conditions are getting worse and any residents of Forest Ridge and nearby Cypress Gardens who remain have been told to leave immediately or follow their bushfire survival plan as 24 fire crews attempt to control the blaze.
"Fire crews are working to contain the fire, but firefighters may not be able to protect every property. You should not expect a firefighter at your door," the state's Rural Fire Service said on Thursday.
Severe #fire dangers forecast for southeastern districts today and into the weekend. Air quality is currently poor- very poor in Brisbane with #smoke, expected to continue into Saturday.— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@BOM_Qld) December 4, 2019
Fire weather warnings: https://t.co/Aw4KhSWDJc
Air quality info: https://t.co/s6VxSIk9uv pic.twitter.com/Ue9Lri2qGe
Part of the Gore Highway has been closed between Cypress Gardens and the BP at Captains Mountain since Wednesday evening as the fire rages southwest of Millmerran, a town not far from Toowoomba.
An evacuation centre is now open at the Millmerran Showgrounds. A second significant fire is burning at Carneys Creek near the Queensland and New South Wales border, with people there being told to get ready to leave. Crews are fighting the fire on the ground and from the air.
'LONGEST PERIOD' OF AIR POLLUTION
South of the Tweed, fire danger ratings are "very high" as far south as the mid north coast and then a rung up at "severe" for the remainder of the coast including Sydney.
A total fire ban is in place for much of eastern NSW including populated areas.
Hot and windy conditions could stoke blazes. One hundred fires are burning across NSW, with 44 uncontained.
The appalling air pollution is set to continue with severe bushfire conditions across large chunks of the state. The Bureau of Meteorology says heavy smoke billowing from bushfires surrounding Sydney will linger in the city basin until Saturday.
Poor air quality has again been forecast for Sydney after hazardous levels of pollution were recorded in the east and southwest of the city on Wednesday. Heavy smoke has been blowing into the city from a large fire near Warragamba Dam near the Blue Mountains, the NSW Rural Fire Service says.
"An overnight temperature inversion will trap the smoke in the Sydney basin. This means smoke will settle in many areas and be very heavy," the RFS said in a statement.
"Smoke is also affecting areas including the north coast, Central Coast, Hawkesbury, Wollondilly, Queanbeyan and Shoalhaven areas."
The NSW environment department says this season's bushfire emergency has caused "some of the highest air pollution ever seen in NSW".
"Recently NSW has experienced elevated levels of pollutants as a result of smoke from the bushfire emergency and dust caused by the severe drought," a spokesman said.
"NSW has experienced other periods of poor air quality that lasted several weeks, including the 1994 Sydney bushfires and the Black Christmas bushfires of December 2001 to January 2002.
"This event, however, is the longest and the most widespread in our records."