SYDNEY (REUTERS) - Australian officials on Tuesday (Jan 28) warned communities in hard-hit eastern states to strengthen bush fire defences as soaring temperatures and strong winds were set to return, threatening to reignite some blazes and start fresh ones.
Since September, Australia has been battling bush fires that have killed 33 people and about 1 billion native animals, while 2,500 homes and an area the size of Greece have been destroyed.
Firefighters have used several days of cooler, damper weather across much of the continent to try and gain control of more than 100 blazes still burning before the weather turns.
"Warm, dry and windy weather is forecast for today. There is a very high fire danger particularly in the central and south east of the state," the New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service (RFS) said on Twitter. "Worsening conditions are forecast for later the week so prepare now."
The RFS said people should clear their properties of any flammable vegetation, while any broken roof tiles should also be repaired to protect houses from airborne embers.
As NSW readied for more bush fires, residents in Australia's capital, Canberra woke on Tuesday to thick, hazardous smoke covering the city.
Firefighters are battling to contain a fire in Namadgi National Park near the capital and authorities worry the blaze may spread as temperatures are set to top 35 deg C later on Tuesday.
Defence and emergency services personnel were knocking on the doors of homes near the blaze on Tuesday morning, urging residents to be ready to evacuate.