2 firefighters die, 3 hurt as wildfires ravage Australia

2 firefighters die, 3 hurt as wildfires ravage Australia

Mr. Morrison said the two firefighters were "bravely defending their communities with an unmatched spirit and a dedication that will forever set them apart amongst our most courageous Australians".

The RFS named the dead volunteer firefighters as Andrew O'Dwyer, 36, and Geoffrey Keaton, 32 - both fathers to 19-month- old children. It's the second time in two months that officials in New South Wales have been forced to take that step.

The firefighters' deaths were met with an outpouring of grief across the country on Friday.

According to NSW Police, the driver and front passenger died at the scene, while three other firefighters were injured in the accident.

The fires are being spurred this week, by record temperatures across the country which led New South Wales, the most populous state with 7 million people, to declare a seven-day state of emergency.

In a message posted to social media, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state has "tragically lost two heroes".

He also expressed regret for his absence on holiday, saying that though his holiday had been arranged "some time ago", the fires and deaths had "understandably caused a lot of anxiety".

"This is an absolutely devastating event in what has already been an incredibly hard day and fire season", the New South Wales (NSW) state Rural Fire Service said in a statement.

Close to 100 fires were burning across NSW on Saturday afternoon - of which six were characterized as emergency level. Images from the region show thick plumes of smoke blanketing neighborhoods and a hazy orange sky.

As of 7am today, the RFS states the Green Wattle Creek fire is "more than 167,000 hectares in size and is out of control".

According to authorities, some 40 homes were destroyed due to bushfires on Thursday in the area where the firefighters died.

Australia has been fighting wildfires in the east for weeks, with blazes destroying more than 700 homes and almost 3 million acres of bushland.

The Gospers Mountain mega fire has already burned nearly 460,000 hectares (1.14 million acres) to the northwest of Sydney.

The bushfires have been burning for two months now, exacerbated by strong winds that stoke the flames and spread risky embers, and by a record-breaking heat wave. In that state, eight people have been killed, more than 6 million acres - an area the size of MA - have been burnt out and 800 houses destroyed, 40 of them on Thursday, since the fire season started unseasonably early in winter.

Temperatures eased on Friday but were expected to return to near-record highs on Saturday, which firefighters fear will stoke some of them around 100 fires burning across the state.

"Those are the worst conditions", said NSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

He said a local fire ban had been extended until December 31, cancelling all permits.

Related Articles