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Nation swelters, Victoria on Code Red fire alert

Alle McMahon, November 21, 2019 10:44AM

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The entire country has experienced extreme heat this week. media_cameraThe entire country has experienced extreme heat this week.


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A Code Red fire danger day has been declared in Victoria for the first time since the Code Red warning system was introduced 10 years ago, as the entire country swelters* through heatwave conditions.

On Wednesday, every mainland state recorded 40 degrees and overnight temperatures were also high.

The Code Red warning was issued for the Mallee and Northern Country Districts of Victoria, while the Country Fire Authority has also declared a total fire ban across Victoria for Thursday.

Code Red signals the worst possible bushfire conditions and that the safest place to be during a Code Red is away from high-risk fire areas. It is the first time Victoria has declared a Code Red since the devastating Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, which killed 173 people. 

Thursday was a day of extreme weather events across Victoria including: 

  • 60 fires being fought by 3000 firefighters. Some blazes continued to burn on Friday.  There are fears fires near Rochester in northern Victoria were deliberately lit. 
  • The equal hottest November day on record in Melbourne, reaching 40.9 degrees.
  • Dust clouds blanketing towns including Mildura. 
  • Strong winds of 132kmh in the Wimmera region and 117kmh in Melbourne which ripped roofs off houses and caused power outages after bringing down power lines. 

In South Australia, 65 bushfires burned during a day of extreme heat on Wednesday and Adelaide was cloaked* in smoke on Thursday morning. More than 11 homes have been lost on the Yorke Peninsula and the clean-up continued on Friday morning.

The most vicious of the fires was caused by a power network fault just outside of Yorketown. The blaze burned uncontrolled in stubble towards the coastal towns of Edithburgh and Coobowie, destroying about 5000ha of land.

This morning (Friday), 50 fires were still burning across New South Wales. 

A huge cloud of dust that has already reached the far west of NSW is expected to hit Sydney during the day, bringing with it even further deterioration to the smoke-choked city’s air quality.

media_cameraRFS volunteers and NSW Fire and Rescue officers protect a home on Wheelbarrow Ridge Road being impacted by the Gospers Mountain fire near Colo Heights south west of Sydney, Tuesday, November 19, 2019. Picture: AAP

Fire conditions are beginning to ease in Queensland, but several areas remain on high alert, including Toowoomba, Lockyer Valley, Ipswich and the Scenic Rim.

“Significant blazes continue to burn in these areas and the bushfire risk remains high,” acting Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) commissioner Mike Wassing said.

Authorities are warning that where there is smoke, people should stay indoors, with windows and doors closed, or stay in airconditioned buildings, if possible. Anyone with asthma or a lung condition should avoid vigorous* exercise and follow their asthma action plan.

Sydney Blanketed In Smoke As Bushfires Continue To Burn Across NSW media_cameraSmoke shrouds the Sydney Harbour Bridge on November 21, 2019 as fires continue to burn in NSW. Adelaide was also shrouded in smoke on Thursday morning as several fires burned in South Australia. Picture: Getty Images


  • swelters: endures extreme heat
  • cloaked: covered as if by a cloak
  • vigorous: high intensity


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Weary firefighters hailed as heroes

Koala Anwen’s lucky-unlucky day


  1. Which parts of Victoria have a total fire ban on Thursday?
  2. What does Code Red mean?
  3. Who is Andrew Crisp?
  4. Are there fires still burning in Queensland at the moment? What about New South Wales?
  5. What should you do if there is smoke in the air but no bushfire threat nearby?


1. Impact of Code Red days
If a Code Red day is declared, it means that it is the worst possible bushfire conditions in a certain area. Code Red days are not declared lightly and take into account such factors as fire danger ratings, fuel conditions, agricultural activity, fires already burning, uncontrolled ignitions, community risk, population movement and major events and is decided by the Emergency Management commissioner.
Create a table with two columns ORGANISATION /PEOPLE and HOW A CODE RED DAY IMPACTS.
Write all the things you can think of about how the Code Red day affects the following organisations and groups of people:

  • Schools
  • Childcare centres
  • Employers
  • Medical Centres
  • Families in a bushfire area
  • Whole towns

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and creative thinking.

2. Extension
The advice given is if you live in an area where a Code Red day is declared is to leave high bushfire risk areas the night before or early morning. Discuss with a partner where your family could or would go on these days if this affected you? What things would you need to organise before you go?

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and social, Critical and creative thinking.

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight all the openers you can find in blue. Discuss if they are powerful and varied openers or not. Why do you think the journalist has used a mix of simple and power openers? Would you change any, and why?

HAVE YOUR SAY: What is the weather like where you are? Are you clear on what to do if there is a fire near you?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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