After cooler temperatures brought a few days of reprieve over Christmas, authorities in Australia are bracing for more dangerous conditions as the country's bushfire crisis continues.
Authorities say they're now shifting their focus to protecting water plants, pumping stations, pipes and other infrastructure from intense bushfires surrounding the country's largest city--Sydney.
Temperatures in New South Wales are forecast to hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) early next week, fuelling fires near Warragamba Dam-- 40 miles west of Sydney, which provides water to about 80% of Sydney's 5 million residents.
The state's rural fire service commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW SOUTH WALES RURAL FIRE SERVICE COMMISSIONER, SHANE FITZSIMMONS, SAYING: We've being worried about that from day one.
We had multiple lightning strikes in the catchment region and those fires have grown and ended up joining together.
We've got the catchment authorities embedded in the incident management teams. We've very focused on A: trying to bring that fire under control, prioritising the threat to life and property.
But we're also very mindful about the implications of fire burning in the catchment area, what that means when it does rain again, what sort of run off there will be, what sort of siltation will there be - ash, soil, all that sort of stuff getting in the waterways." In the country's south, temperatures soared on Friday, with the South Australian Ambulance Service attending to hundreds of patients over the past week.
(SOUNDBITE)( English) SOUTH AUSTRALIAN AMBULANCE SERVICE OPERATIONS MANAGER CHRIS HOWIE, SAYING: "Since the start of the heatwave on the 16th, SES (State Emergency Service) has actually attended 575 heat related cases, 266 of those persons ultimately required transport to hospital.
So as we head into another period of increased heat conditions, we're encouraging people to make sure that they look out for the signs and symptoms that are generally associated with dehydration.
And they include headaches, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and ultimately potentially collapse." Bushfires have destroyed more than 4 million hectares (9.9 million acres) in five states across Australia since September,