MELBOURNE • Wildfires burned in parts of Australia's densely-populated south-east yesterday, although weather officials expected falling temperatures to bring relief for Sydney by early afternoon.
One fire in eastern Victoria, the country's second most populous state, prompted the fire authorities to issue a watch and act warning for residents in 14 towns.
The fire near Rosedale, about 200km east of Melbourne, had burnt more than 10,000ha and sudden wind changes last Friday created risky conditions for roughly 40 firefighters, an emergency official said.
"They found themselves in a very serious situation and they were shaken," Mr Andrew Crisp, the state's emergency management commissioner, said yesterday.
The origins of the Rosedale fire and another in Victoria were being treated as suspicious, with police and the fire authorities investigating their cause, he added.
In the southern island state of Tasmania, a bushfire had burnt through 15,000ha of south-western wilderness by yesterday, fire officials said. Both Victoria and Tasmania had sweltered through above average temperatures last Friday, with Melbourne recording a near-record 42 deg C and Hobart reaching 40 deg C.
But both states will see far cooler temperatures over the weekend, following a rapid cool change, said weather officials.
"At 4.00pm, (Melbourne) was at 42 degrees, by 4.20pm it was down to 26 degrees, and then continued to drop after that," meteorologist Keris Arndt from the weather bureau told Reuters.
Yet by yesterday morning, the cooling temperatures had not reached parts of Sydney, Australia's most populous city, where the mercury reached almost 38 deg C by mid-day. A Bureau of Meteorology forecaster said the weather pattern that brought temperature drops to Melbourne and Tasmania was expected to reach Sydney by afternoon.