Authorities in Australia’s Northern Territory (NT) continue fighting an out-of-control bushfire that has been burning for a week.
The fire, which started on Sept. 4, has burned more than 9,300 square km of land in the Barkly region in the NT outback more than 1,000 km south-east of Darwin.
Tony Fuller, the NT chief fire controller, said at a press conference on Sunday that the blaze was roughly four times the size of the Australian Capital Territory.
“We’ve had large fires in the past, but this is the largest one I’ve had to deal with,” he told reporters.
A total fire ban was declared across most of the NT in response to the fire on Saturday and the entire territory was declared a fire danger period until the end of February.
Firefighting crews have been called in from South Australia and New South Wales to aid authorities with the Barkly fire.
Fuller said on Sunday that the fire was not a threat to residential properties, but that pastoral leases in the region, including a cattle station, could be at risk.
The Barkly Highway, a major freight route, has been closed and reopened by authorities based on conditions.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Bushfires NT has warned that extreme fire weather exceeding 30 degrees centigrade is forecast to persist for the rest of the week and that smoky conditions in the nearby town of Tennant Creek will continue.
Authorities have repeatedly warned that much of Australia is facing catastrophic fire danger in the 2023-2024 season after three years of higher-than-average rainfall increased fuel loads.
Fuller on Friday told reporters that the forecast summer conditions in the NT are similar to the 2011-2012 season when 80 percent of the territory was affected by bushfires.
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