Saeed Khan / AFP via Getty Images
An unprecedented number of fires rages across Australia's most populous state. Fire officials say there were nearly 100 active fires in New South Wales on Friday, with dozens reaching "out of control" status.
The wildfires have charred hundreds of thousands of acres across the state, driven by extremely hot, dry and windy conditions. Thousands of New South Wales residents have been forced to leave their homes.
"We simply never had this number of fires burning in North South Wales at the same time," NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said at a briefing Friday.
Fitzsimmons says Australia's persistent drought is one of the main causes of the huge outbreak of fires – and that as Australia enters its summer months, independent and dangerous fire behavior will continue.
"There is just nothing in our forecast suggesting anything but a dominance of above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation," he said. "We still need to get into summer, where we usually have the worst weather conditions."  The rainfall last month was extremely low over New South Wales and other parts of Australia, with some regions registering their driest October ever. The National Bureau of Meteorology says this trend will continue until the end of the year.
Bright orange sky swallowed coastal cities in New South Wales on Friday, and smoke and ash from the wildfires covered Sydney with a gloomy haze. As of Saturday, 100 homes in New South Wales had been destroyed and two people were missing, according to the state's rural fire service. a body was discovered inside a vehicle burned in the Kangawalla fire near Glen Innes.
Awful fires burning I took this apocalyptic photo in Port Macquarie at 2pm today – no filters were used. 24 hour average PM2.5 = 625 µg / m3. Summer has not even begun … pic.twitter.com/4vugHGLPba
– Luke Knibbs (@lukeknibbs_au) November 8, 2019
There have been several reports of people being trapped in their homes. RFS said a fire, which has burned more than 160,000 acres, was growing so fast that it was too late to evacuate the neighboring city.
Firefighters continued to fight fires that remained out of control during the night and into Saturday morning. The biggest fire was in Carrai National Park north of Sydney, where nearly 300,000 acres have been burned.
Brook Mitchell / Getty Images
Last week, a fire that burned near Port Macquarie destroyed over 5,000 acres. Experts said about 350 koalas died and the colony's natural habitat was destroyed. Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has rescued koalas from the burned area, but fresh fires pose greater danger to the animal.
"We can't look to win," the organization posted on Facebook. "Just when we put up a positive happy post … The area that they just finished the search for today – one of the unburned land with koalas in it is now burning like hell again!"
Paolo Zialcita is an intern at NPR's Newsdesk.