Wildfires have left a firefighter seriously injured and destroyed several homes in an early start to the fire danger season in southeast Australia, officials said Saturday.
Volunteer firefighter Neville Smith, 66, suffered serious burns on Friday while fighting a blaze near the New South Wales state town of Tenterfield, Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.
Smith was flown to a hospital in the Queensland state capital, Brisbane, where his condition was listed Saturday as critical but stable.
Officials said 110 wildfires have been raging across the neighboring states of Queensland and New South Wales since Friday, only days after the low-danger southern winter season ended. At least 21 homes have been lost.
This year has been unusually warm and dry for large parts of Australia, leaving much of the grass and woodlands in the country’s populous southeast parched and highly inflammable as temperatures begin to rise after winter. The wildfire season that peaks during the Southern Hemisphere summer is forecast to be worse than average across most of the country.
“Fires in September and the severity of these fires tell us what a horrific bushfire season we’re going to have in upcoming months,” New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters. Wildfires in Australia are known as bushfires and pose an annual summer danger across most of the county.
The worst fires in recent decades killed 173 people and razed more than 2,000 homes in Victoria state toward the end of summer in 2009.