Catastrophic conditions and two more deaths: What we know about the fires in NSW, VIC and SA.

— Written with AAP.

New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia are battling ‘catastrophic’ blazes as soaring 40+ temperatures and heavy winds worsen conditions.

Overnight, three fires in Victoria have merged to create a 6,000-hectare mega fire, while a total of 137 fires continue to ravage NSW, with around 60 uncontained.

Emergency warnings are in place in Victoria and New South Wales, with evacuations continuing in Victoria’s East Gippsland and NSW South Coast regions. Meanwhile, half of South Australia’s Kangaroo Island has been affected by fires, resulting in devastating losses to its infrastructure and tourism industries.

9News captures the PM’s awkward interaction with bushfire victims. Post continues below.

Video by Channel 9

Scott Morrison deploys Australian Defence Force reservists and water-bombing aid.

Speaking to media in a press conference, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ordered the compulsory call-out of 3,000 defence reservists.

His request was approved by the Governor-General David Hurley and includes the deployment of reservists, the deployment of HMAS Adelaide to help with evacuations, as well as additional military aircraft. Defence force bases in Adelaide to Brisbane have also been opened up to use as emergency short-term accommodation.

Additionally, the Commonwealth will fund the $20 million leasing costs for four additional water-bombing aircrafts, two of which will be available within a week. This includes two long-range fixed wings DC-10s with 30,000-litre capacity and two medium-range large air tankers with an 11,000-litre capacity.

“The priority of this deployment is to assist in ensuring the safety of life, to support the evacuation of affected people, particularly in isolated communities and to provide assistance to isolated communities and support state-managed evacuation centres,” he said.


“It is to move in and move forward, particularly in areas that have been devastated by fire to support the immediate response needs there and the recovery that will also follow.

“The scale of the fires is stretching resources on the ground and there are clearly communities that need additional help and in response to that, we must move forward first as a Commonwealth, particularly with the work of our defence forces, and then integrate with the local operations that are in place in those local communities.”

His decision, however, has been met with criticisms that he has not acted soon enough.

QLD Labor Senator and the Shadow Minister for Natural Disaster & Emergency Management, Murray Watt has tweeted that requests for additional water bombers have been weeks, if not years in the making.

Two people confirmed dead from Kangaroo Island fires.

Police have confirmed the deaths of two people at a community meeting, reports the ABC. Their identities have not been disclosed.

So far 21 lives have been lost due to the bushfires, three of which were volunteer firefighters.

South Australian Premier, Steven Marshall has addressed media, stating that the situation on Kangaroo Island is “very dangerous”.

“Very sad that we have heard people have heard that two people have died in the fires. The forensic team from SAPOL (South Australia Police) is on its way, as we have more information we will make it known,” he said.


“At the moment the focus is on informing next of kin, our hearts go out to the family of those people that have been affected, again, it really does reiterate the very important message that people listen to, the alerts, which are coming out now from the CFS.

“This is a very dangerous situation on Kangaroo Island, and please stay alert to what is going on on the island, and follow instructions from SAPOL.”

Scott Morrison has cancelled his trips to India and Japan this month.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has cancelled his trips to India and Japan later this month as Australia faces a national bushfire crisis.

Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Saturday the meetings, set to focus on regional security, would be postponed.

He said his Indian and Japanese counterparts had passed on their sympathies to Australians affected by the bushfires.

“These events they’re very aware of and completely understand,” Mr Morrison said.

He said the talks with India and Japan on defence, security and intelligence arrangements were at an advanced stage.

“We were looking to progress those as well as broader trade discussions,” he said.

In a statement, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office said he telephoned Mr Morrison to say he looked forward to hosting him in the future.


Mr Modi also passed on his condolences for the damage to life and property from the bushfires.

Japan’s ambassador to Australia also passed on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s sympathies for bushfire victims to Mr Morrison.

Mr Morrison said he would remain in Australia for the rest of January but hoped to reschedule the trips for early this year.

The prime minister faced criticism in December for holidaying in Hawaii with his family during the bushfire emergency.

SA’s Kangaroo Island fire warning downgraded.

After devastating blazes scorched what has been estimated to be half of Kangaroo Island, reports state bushfire conditions have eased.

The blaze broke out late last month and was burning within containment lines before extreme weather conditions on Friday allowed it to breach the defences, with the fire described as “virtually unstoppable” as it began to spread quickly.

At one stage the entire island was subject to either an emergency warning or a watch and act advice with only the towns of Kingscote and Peneshaw on the east coast considered safe places.

By Saturday morning the situation had eased with warnings reduced to a watch and act but not before the fire had burnt through up to 100,000 hectares.

Despite this, out of control fires continue to burn, with devastating damage done to properties and tourism infrastructure.


The Bureau of Meteorology said a change that swept through overnight had brought cooler conditions to most of SA while a rain band could result in some significant falls in the north of the state.

New emergency warnings issued in Victoria’s fire-ravaged east.

An unprecedented state of disaster was declared on Thursday, triggering powers introduced after the devastating 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, including allowing authorities to compel people to leave.

Areas covered by the declaration are the East Gippsland Shire, Mansfield Shire, Wellington Shire, Wangaratta Rural Shire, Towong Shire and Alpine Shire. It also covers Mount Buller, Mount Hotham and the Mount Stirling Alpine Resorts, with evacuation alerts in place across East Gippsland and in the Alpine region.

About 50 fires continue to burn across Victoria with more than 820,000 hectares destroyed – all mostly in the East Gippsland and northeast of the state.

There are 28 people missing in East Gippsland, in addition to two men confirmed dead in the fires.

Communities in the worst-hit areas have been urged to evacuate, with about 500 people at a relief centre in Bairnsdale on the western edge of the Gippsland fires.

Temperatures are expected to creep higher on Saturday, with parts of Gippsland forecast to hit 40C and areas of the northeast to reach 45C, before a gusty southerly change in the afternoon. There are also fears dry lightning storms will start more fires.


An emergency alert for Nowa Nowa in East Gippsland went out about 8.30am on Saturday.

“There is a bushfire at Buchan Valley that is not yet under control,” the alert reads.

“The bushfire has escaped control lines at Mount Nowa Nowa and is spreading towards the Nowa Nowa township.”

People in the town are being told to leave via Princes Highway towards Lakes Entrance.

The Buchan Valley fire has merged with several others during the past week, with several alerts in place for townships bordering the blaze.

Emergency warnings are also active for a 124,000 hectare blaze near Corryong in the northeast and for Biggara, Towong and surrounding communities.

NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner: “Volatile fire grounds.”

NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told AAP temperatures would soar past 40C in southeastern NSW before a “volatile” southerly wind sweeps through in the afternoon. More than 3000 firefighters are on the frontline, with 31 specialist strike teams in place across NSW.

“We’re going to have a long day dominated by hot temperatures, dry atmosphere and winds coming out of the ranges,” he told reporters.

“It will make for a very dangerous day and it will make for volatile fire grounds.”


Extreme fire danger is forecast for six fire districts in NSW’s southeast and the ACT, while severe conditions are forecast for Sydney, the Hunter and the central ranges.

Five “no go” zones have been established across broad sections of the south coast, parts of the alpine region and on fire-threatened parts of Sydney’s fringes. Regional airline REX has suspended all NSW south coast services on Saturday morning due to the extreme bushfire conditions.

Authorities are urging people there to head to cities, large towns, already-burnt areas or beaches if they hadn’t already left.

Bushfire smoke reaches Northern Tasmania.

Tasmanian residents report waking up to sight of smoke from out of control blazes in Victoria.

Twitter users have been sharing photos of the air pollution.

According to the Tasmanian Fire Service, several vegetation fires are also affecting areas in Malcolm and Fingal. As of 11am Saturday, a ‘Watch and Act’ alert has been issued for Valley Road (Fingal), Mangana, Tower Hill Area and Fingal and its surrounding areas.


… And there’s more.

Mamamia Out Loud, our bi-weekly podcast, is coming to Melbourne for a live show, with 100 per cent of all ticket proceeds going to the Australian Red Cross disaster relief and recovery fund.

It’s a brand new show, full of laughs and news and opinions and a few special surprises, with Mia Freedman, Holly Wainwright and Jessie Stephens, on February the 11th. You can buy tickets right now at See you there! 

Feature Image: Getty.