Water-bombing aircraft deployed to Australian wildfire

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?Climate change is increasing the vulnerability of forests to wildfires ?

A large fire continued to burn out of control on Australia’s east coast on Thursday, marking the first major blaze of the season with two weeks still left of winter in the southern hemisphere.

Water-bombing aircraft were called in to support ground crews in northern New South Wales (NSW) State, with a large plume of smoke visible to motorists on a nearby highway.

It is believed the fire escaped from private landowners burn in strong winds on Wednesday, and as of midday Thursday the fire had burnt through 363 hectares, with no lives or property at immediate risk.

“Certainly at this time of the year, there are a lot of resources that have been put into the fire in terms of water-bombing aircraft,” a NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) spokesperson told Xinhua.

“But it’s also a very visible fire being that it’s close to the Pacific Highway, and where it’s burning in the swamp, grassy land that’s using quite a lot of smoke as well, so it’s very visible.”

While the official fire season commences on Oct. 1, several local communities have already chosen to initiate the bushfire danger period from the beginning of August.

“It’s not uncommon to see some areas brought forward due to local conditions, and in many parts of the state, especially up north, there is still quite a drought factor, and the land is very dry,” the spokesperson said.

NSW’s previous fire season claimed 26 lives, destroyed over 2,000 properties and burnt more than 5.5 million hectares of wilderness, killing an estimated 3 billion animals in the process.

“What the entire state went through last year of course was very significant, and that was only a few months ago that the season finished,” the spokesperson said.

With much of the high-risk forest areas already burnt, the NSW RFS is expecting to see a rise in grass fires moving into the summer, as opposed to the forest fires experienced along Australia’s highly populated eastern coastline the year before.

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