The three bushfires have teared through an area of 1.5 million acres since merging
Although recent rainfall has helped aid the containment of the deadly blazes currently ravaging Australia, the situation continues to intensify in other parts of the country.
By Friday evening local time, three bushfires encompassing the New South Wales and Victorian border merged to create a “megafire” covering over 1.5 million acres, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
As severe weather conditions, including dry heat and power wind, fanned the flames in New South Wales, the East Ournie Creek and the Dunns Road fires merged in the Snowy Mountains area, the outlet reported. The East Ournie Creek fire had also already merged with the nearby Green Valley fire.
After midnight, the Green Valley fire was downgraded from its emergency status as the “strong winds affecting” the area began to ease up, although local residents were still urged to be cautious, according to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.
“It provides a challenge for firefighters as, when they merge, it increases the size and opens up more uncontained perimeter,” New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service spokesman Anthony Clark told the BBC. Authorities have warned that the fires will continue until there is significant rainfall in the area.
Other areas in Australia that have already been hit by the deadly blazes are also experiencing a second round of devastation.
“It’s like the fire is a sentient being,” a resident of the town of Batlow in New South Wales told The New York Times. “It feels like it’s coming to get us.”
According to the outlet, on Friday, a new wave of blazes were heading towards the area, just under a week after people had been evacuated due to previous fires. Residents in the southeast state of Victoria have also been asked to evacuate their homes.
Meanwhile, recent rainfall in Kangaroo Island has helped quell the danger in the area, although officials have warned that it will still take time for the fires to be completely extinguished.
“The changing conditions should allow crews to be successful in reducing spread today and controlling the fires,” Country Fire Service chief officer Mark Jones said on Thursday, according to 9 News.
“They will not be extinguished today, I would not want anyone to take false hope from that,” he added. “This is an ongoing and lengthy operation.”
Officials have now reported that half of the island has burned as a result of the fires — up from a third earlier this week — and ecologists fear the affect the devastation could have on endangered wildlife, the Times reported.
According to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, as of midnight on Saturday, there are 147 fires in the state. Of those blazes, 67 are uncontained, with officials warning residents to be wary of “strong and gusty winds.”
High temperatures and dry conditions over the last few months have driven the blazes, which have so far burned through more than 15.6 million acres, according to the BBC. At least 27 people have been killed so far while thousands of homes and buildings have been destroyed.
Around 1.25 billion animals are estimated to have died due to the blazes, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Thousands more are believed to be injured and homeless.