MELBOURNE • Australian firefighters were battling more than 100 bush fires across two eastern states yesterday as the authorities warned that parts of the country could expect a severe bush fire season this summer.
"We've never seen this before in recorded history, fire weather has never been as severe this early in spring," said Mr Andrew Sturgess, an inspector with the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
The fires in the states of Queensland and New South Wales, many out of control, have destroyed at least 20 properties, with the authorities saying that number is likely to increase once damaged areas can be inspected.
No deaths have been reported so far, but a 66-year-old volunteer firefighter remains in critical condition in hospital after sustaining serious burns last Friday.
In Queensland, 71 fires were burning yesterday, although none posed an immediate threat to major population centres.
In New South Wales, parts of which are facing the worst drought in living memory, 57 fires were burning, with the largest having burned through more than 56,000ha of land.
Weather officials said they did not expect a reprieve from the hot and windy conditions fanning the fires until Wednesday, adding that there is little chance of rain.
Mr Sturgess said the dangerous spring fire conditions should be considered an "omen" or "warning" as to the damage bush fires may cause in the north-eastern state over the summer months from December to February.
Australia's east coast has endured two years of below-average rainfall, creating drought conditions in wide parts of the country.