Australia’s east is set to receive its most significant rainfall in months this week, bringing some much-needed relief to bushfire-ravaged communities and firefighters.
Rain is expected for much of New South Wales from Tuesday, including firegrounds across the Snowy Mountains, southwest of Sydney and along the south coast, and is predicted to hang around until the weekend.
Sydney is forecast to receive its most significant downpour in several months, with forecasts of 2-8mm on Thursday and 5-10mm on Friday.
However, the Bureau of Meteorology said it was difficult to predict exactly how much rain would fall because showers will be inconsistent.
The best-case scenario, with the ongoing showers and storms from Wednesday onwards, is that they can really impact and help to extinguish some of the fires,’ BoM weather forecaster Sarah Scully said.
‘What’s difficult to say is the exact location where the heaviest totals are going to be accumulated.
‘At least with this heavy rainfall the ground will be more moist and it’ll be harder to ignite.’
Bega on the south coast was expected to receive between 3mm and 10mm on Thursday, when most rain is predicted to fall.
However in Cooma, just 100km inland, greater falls of between 8mm and 25mm are forecast.
The NSW Rural Fire Service also warned that there was no guarantee the storms would extinguish the 105 fires that were burning across the state as of Monday night.
Officials said the thunderstorms could also create the risk of falling trees and landslips.
Fires have destroyed 2,163 homes in NSW this bushfire season, with more than 1,200 having burned down since New Year’s Eve.
The wet weather comes as one of the worst NSW blazes was finally brought under control on Sunday.
RFS announced firefighters were able to contain the Gospers Mountain mega-blaze northwest of Sydney, which has burned over 512,000 hectares over the last two-and-a-half months.
‘Containment took longer than expected due to unfavourable weather conditions, however due to our hardworking crews, we have achieved that today,’ the Hawkesbury RFS said on Facebook.
‘It is important to remember not to be complacent as there are still a few months of the bushfire season to go with some bushland that still has not been burnt.’
BOM meteorologist Gabrielle Woodhouse said while rain would be welcome at the fire grounds, it may also bring dangers to fire-affected landscapes.
‘We are looking at a couple of days in a row of some showers and thunderstorms, some of which may produce significant accumulation over those couple of days,’ she said.
‘It will be quite welcome but there are some extra dangers and risks associated with it as the landscape is quite vulnerable with the fire damage.
‘We’ve lost a lot of vegetations and there is the risk of landslips.’
Across NSW on Sunday night there were 122 fires burning, but none were at emergency levels.
The Department of Defence said they would use favourable conditions over the next few days to create a 70km-long, 1km-wide firebreak in the Snowy Mountains region.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday paid tribute to 19-year-old Courtney Partridge, who died on November 29 after suffering an asthma attack as a result of smoke in Glen Innes in the New England region.
‘The sheer sense of loss, pain, hurt, grief, frustration, fear, particularly well away from the fires where we’ve seen also that terrible loss of the young girl as the result of an asthma attack,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘This has I think, created an environment where people for the first time have wanted to see a more direct involvement of the federal government in responding to these national disasters.’
RFS deputy commissioner Rob Rogers confirmed on Sunday that 2,136 NSW homes have been destroyed this fire season.
More than 1,200 of those homes have burned down since New Year’s Eve.
The Catholic Diocese of Sydney held a special service on Sunday for bushfire victims and drought-affect communities at St Mary’s Cathedral.
Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher said many Australian priests had flocked to the south coast to assist, or were serving as army reservist