MELBOURNE (REUTERS) - Wildfires burned in parts of Australia's densely populated south-east on Saturday (Jan 5), although weather officials expected falling temperatures to bring relief for Sydney by early afternoon.
One fire in eastern Victoria, the second most populous state, prompted fire authorities to issue a watch and act warning for residents in 14 different towns.
The fire near Rosedale, about 200km east of Melbourne, had burned more than 10,000ha and sudden wind changes on Friday created risky conditions for roughly 40 firefighters, an emergency official said.
"They found themselves in a very serious situation and they were shaken," Andrew Crisp, the state's emergency management commissioner, told reporters on Saturday.
The origin of the Rosedale fire and another in Victoria were being treated as suspicious, with police and fire authorities investigating their cause, he added.
In the southern island state of Tasmania, a bushfire had burned through 15,000ha of south-western wilderness by Saturday, fire officials said.
Both Victoria and Tasmania had sweltered through above average temperatures on 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 on Friday, weather officials said.
"At 4pm, (Melbourne) was at 42 degrees, by 4.20pm it was down to 26 degrees, and then continued to drop after that," Keris Arndt, a meteorologist with the weather bureau, told Reuters.
Yet by Saturday morning the cooling temperatures had not reached parts of Sydney, Australia's most populous city, where the mercury reached almost 38 deg C by midday.
A Bureau of Meteorology forecaster told Reuters the weather pattern that brought temperature drops to Melbourne and Tasmania was expected to reach Sydney by afternoon.