Fire bans, smoky cities and thunderstorm asthma warning as Australia's east coast swelters
Photo: The Harbour Bridge was barely visible in the haze. (Facebook: Andrew Parkinson)
Six states are facing fire weather warnings today as hot and windy conditions scorch Australia, putting authorities on alert for bushfires across the country.
Sydney and Adelaide are blanketed under thick smoke haze, with experts urging children, the elderly and people with heart or lung disease to avoid exercising outdoors.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has fire weather warnings in place for Western Australia, South Australia, NSW, ACT, Victoria and Tasmania.
Victorian authorities have declared a code red fire danger for parts of the state for the first time since 2010, coupled with a moderate thunderstorm asthma warning for all but one district statewide.
Code red is the highest possible rating on the state's fire danger scale, the equivalent to the "catastrophic" fire rating in other states.
Authorities issued the day's first emergency warning just after midday, for a grassfire near Clunes.
A total fire ban is in place for the entire state, with damaging winds and high pollen levels forecast along with temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius.
Severe weather warnings were put in place for central parts of the state, with damaging winds of up to 100 kilometres per hour forecast.
Earlier today the sky over Mildura turned orange as hot, gusty winds blanketed the city in dust.
South Australian firefighters are working to contain blazes across the state after a catastrophic fire danger rating yesterday.
Authorities said 11 properties were damaged and 33 people were treated for minor fire-related injuries.
"At this point in time, there are no losses of life identified," Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said.
"We had concerns for one elderly gentleman, who has been located safe and sound."
Severe fire danger warnings were in place for three regions this morning, with a bushfire burning through 4,500 hectares on the Lower Yorke Peninsula as it headed towards Edithburgh.
South Australia's Country Fire Service (CFS) advised residents in the Adelaide metropolitan area to close all doors and windows and to stay indoors.
The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) said the Sydney smoke was coming from about 50 fires burning in the state's north, with authorities warning the haze will not lift until later this evening.
The RFS revealed more than 600 homes had been destroyed by fire across the state so far this season, with more than 500 of those lost in the past fortnight.
In a tweet, the RFS said firefighters had saved more than 7,000 buildings.
Fires continue to burn in Queensland, with the state's RFS advising people to cancel plans to camp on Moreton Island over the coming days and crews working to contain a blaze that destroyed several homes in the Crows Nest area in the state's south-east.
About 70 blazes were still burning across the state on Wednesday, with authorities hopeful a weekend forecast with a maximum of "very high" fire danger rating will provide relief for crews.
The state of fire emergency declared nearly a fortnight ago was lifted for 36 of 42 local government areas, however, strict fire bans remain in place for the Toowoomba, Lockyer Valley, Somerset, Ipswich, Southern Downs and Scenic Rim.
In Canberra, authorities declared a total fire ban for the whole of the ACT yesterday, ahead of a severe fire danger rating for today.
Those living in bushfire prone areas were told to review their fire plans.
A cool change is sweeping across Tasmania this afternoon, bringing a dramatic temperature drop and thunderstorms to some areas.
A total fire ban is in place until 2:00am tomorrow for everywhere except the west and north-west.
One fire in Mangana in the state's north-east is burning at watch-and-act level, while another at nearby Mathina is burning at advice level.
In Hobart, temperatures were hovering just over 36C at midday, but fell to 25.5C by 12:30pm (local time) according to the BOM website. Campania, north of the city, was at 38C.
BOM has issued severe fire weather warnings in Western Australia, ahead of hot, dry conditions forecast for later today.
Those in the West Pilbara Coast, Ashburton Island, Gascoyne Coast and North Interior regions are being told to enact their bushfire survival plans.
The Northern Territory had several grassfires with advice alert levels this morning, but no bushfire weather warnings in place.