This weekend, a bush fire in the Sydney suburbs destroyed more than 6,000 acres. More than 500 firefighters rushed to the scene, working through the night to battle the blaze.
Residents were forced to evacuate the area as the fire crept up “right to the back of their fences,” firefighters told the BBC. Major roads were cut off, requiring emergency responders to dump water by helicopter. At one point, a train passed near the fire, allowing passengers to capture harrowing footage on their cellphones. (Officials have said that the train should not have been allowed to travel the track and that they are investigating what happened.)
At one point, smoke from the fire was captured on a satellite.
By Monday, things were mostly under control, although officials warned people to remain vigilant. “There is a lot of work still to be done today and maybe into tonight before we can call the fire contained,” said Shane Fitzsimmons, commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, according to the BBC.
But authorities say the fire may have been deliberately set, and their investigation is just beginning. The fire service called the blaze “highly suspicious,” according to the BBC.
“How dare anyone, if they are deliberately involved in lighting fires, endanger our firefighters and also [put] all these communities in harm's way,” Fitzsimmons said.
It has been unseasonably hot in southern Australia recently, and strong winds allowed the flames to spread quickly. One expert told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that fire-risk conditions were “at their worst since the early 1950s.”
Rising temperatures have led to a longer fire season, experts say. Australian authorities must now prepare for a fire season that lasts six or seven months.