SYDNEY — Residents were urged today to flee fires burning for a week in the Blue Mountains with a combined perimeter of 1,000 miles.
The forest blazes 45 miles west of Sydney have destroyed more than 200 houses and blackened more than 270,000 acres.
Rural Fire Service Chief Shane Fitzsimmons warned remaining residents that intense heat, wild winds and a tinder-dry forest had combined to create a scenario “about as bad as it gets.” They were told to get out while they still could.
The dire warning was echoed by emergency services chief Mike Gallacher: “If you don’t have a plan, quite simply let me give you one: pack the car now, head down the mountain … and allow the firefighters the freedom to move through the community to protect your homes.”
Fitzsimmons said wind gusts of 45 miles per hour would carry burning embers miles ahead of the fire edge and shower down on the heavily fueled forest floor.
“The forecast and scenario for (Wednesday) is about as bad as it gets,” he said. “It’s too early to call where these fires will break out, when these fires will break out and, therefore, which communities will start being impacted first and later on throughout the afternoon.”
All schools in the Blue Mountains were shut, and patients in nursing homes and hospitals moved closer to the city. Roads to the fire zone were closed to non-residents or those not fighting the fires.
An emergency order from the New South Wales state government gives Fitzsimmons the power for force evictions, bulldoze properties and cut off power supplies.