A rocky outcrop holds an Aboriginal shelter of significance in the Pilbara region of Western Australia where human habitation stretches back over 60,000 years, Gudai-darri, 1,120 kilometres (695 miles) northeast of Perth, Australia, October 19, 2023.
A rocky outcrop holds an Aboriginal shelter of significance in the Pilbara region of Western Australia where human habitation stretches back over 60,000 years, Gudai-darri, 1,120 kilometres (695 miles) northeast of Perth, Australia, October 19, 2023. REUTERS/Melanie Burton/File hoto

Heatwave raises bush fire risks in Pilbara and Gascoyne

Parts of Western Australia were gripped on Saturday by an "extreme" heat-wave, raising the risk of bush fires in the vast state, the nation's weather forecaster said.

SYDNEY (Reuters) -Parts of Western Australia were gripped on Saturday by an "extreme" heat-wave, raising the risk of bush fires in the vast state, the nation's weather forecaster said.

The Bureau of Meteorology had an "extreme heat-wave warning" in place on Saturday for the remote Pilbara and Gascoyne areas of Australia's largest state, warning temperatures there could hit high forties degrees Celsius over the weekend.

In the Pilbara mining town of Paraburdoo, about 1,500 km (930 miles) north of the state capital Perth, a maximum temperature of 47 degrees Celsius (116.6 degrees Fahrenheit) was forecast on Saturday, more than six degrees above the average January maximum, according to forecaster data. It was 42.7 C (108.8 F) there at 11:00 a.m (0300 GMT).

Australia's highest temperature on record of 50.7 C (123.2 F) was logged at the Pilbara's Onslow Airport on Jan. 13, 2022.

Saturday's hot weather lifts the risk of bush fires in an already high-risk fire season amid an El Nino weather pattern, which is typically associated with extreme events such as wildfires, cyclones and droughts.

"Very hot and dry conditions combined with fresh southerly winds and a fresh to strong west to southwesterly sea breeze will lead to elevated fire dangers on Saturday," the weather forecaster said on its website, regarding part of the Pilbara.

The warning comes after hundreds of firefighters earlier this month battled an out-of-control bush fire near Perth amid soaring temperatures, prompting evacuations.

Australia's last two fire seasons have been subdued compared with the 2019-2020 "Black Summer" of bush fires that destroyed an area the size of Turkey, killed 33 people, 3 billion animals and trillions of invertebrates.

(Reporting by Sam McKeith in Sydney; Editing by Sandra Maler and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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