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Heat, high wind create 'catastrophic' fire condition in Australia

Dean Lewins / EPA

Wearing protective clothing, a firefighter is almost surrounded by red hot flames as he protects a property affected by the Dean's Gully fire near the town of Wandandian south of Nowra, New South Wales on Jan. 8. No properties, apart from some farm sheds, have been lost in the Dean's Gully fire, which continues to burn out of control. New South Wales has been declared a total fire ban with the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands placed under 'catastrophic fire conditions,' the highest fire danger level.

Julian Smith / EPA

A kangaroo hops through a burnt-out paddock after a grassfire in Sunbury, north of Melbourne, Victoria on Jan. 8. The fire has been contained.

By NBC News staff and wire reports

Firefighters battled scores of wildfires raging across southeast Australia on Tuesday as authorities evacuated national parks and warned that record-level, blistering temperatures and high winds had led to "catastrophic" conditions in some areas.

"We are shaping up for one of the worst fire danger days on record," New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said. "You don't get conditions worse than this. We are at the catastrophic level and clearly in those areas leaving early is your safest option."

Catastrophic threat level is the most severe rating applicable. Continue reading.

Dean Lewins / EPA

A sky crane water bombing helicopter flies through thick smoke over the town of Wandandian south of Nowra, on Jan. 8.

Lukas Coch / EPA

Firefighters continue to hose around a tree that survived a grass fire in Oura, near Wagga Wagga in New South Wales, on Jan. 8.

Rob Blakers / EPA

Alison Palmer, right, and her eleven-year-old son Zac at her parents' house, which was destroyed after bushfires swept through the region at Boomer Bay on the Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania, on Jan. 8. Residents on a southern Tasmanian peninsula have been urged to seek refuge ahead of a renewed bushfire threat across the region.


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