Catastrophic bushfires extend south of Sydney

Sydney is facing a catastrophic fire risk for the first time as NSW’s heightened bushfire emergency worsens this week. Firefighters are battling over 100 fires in NSW and Queensland, Australia, but have warned no area is safe as high winds could send dangerous embers to the central business district.

“We want to make it clear that everywhere in Sydney and the surrounding area may be affected,” said Ben Shepherd of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

It is the first time the RFS has issued a 'catastrophic' warning in the Sydney region, the highest warning level since it was introduced ten years ago after Australia's deadly Black Saturday disaster.

The current fire has already claimed three lives and thousands of people have been displaced by three days of dangerous weather conditions.

High temperatures, strong winds and dry air are expected to combine tomorrow to create one of the most dangerous bushfire days in Australian history, and NSW RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said they have asked the military to help out with extra helicopter support to help combat the increased risk.

"We are talking to the military about having some additional helicopter capability being brought in from the military that will help us to help get people out of trouble, if people need relocated quickly. We are in discussions with them now," he said.

Firefighters from New Zealand have also been flown in to assist with the ongoing devastation and hundreds of schools are set to close across NSW tomorrow.

With temperatures reaching the mid to high 30s and winds gusting to 80km/h, an RFS spokesman said “this is as bad as it gets,” warning embers could travel up to 30 km.

The fires have also instigated further debate regarding the link between climate change and extreme weather. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has slammed the concerns of "raving inner-city lunatics" at a time when rural Australians were dealing with life-threatening bushfires.

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