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Australia faces fire-generated thunderstorms as death toll rises to 24

Australia faces fire-generated thunderstorms as death toll rises to 24
Australia's New South Wales Rural Fire Service reported fire-generated thunderstorms as more than 100 bushfires continue to burn in the state. Photo courtesy NSWRFS 

Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Australia experienced fire-generated weather Sunday as firefighters work to combat more than 100 bushfires in the country.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service warned that fire-generated thunderstorms had been spotted in portions of the country.

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"This is a very dangerous situation. Monitor the conditions around you and take appropriate action," the service said.

The thunderstorms are caused by pyrocumulonimbius clouds which form when intense heat drives air rapidly upward in the smoke plume from a fire and can transfer embers from place to place.

"When the southerly wind change hit, the cloud collapsed and it just threw fire into the forest immediately south of the town," firefighter Michael Brearley said.

The NSWRFS said that there were 139 fires burning across the state on Sunday evening including 69 that were uncontained.

"Firefighters, where possible will undertake backburning to strengthen containment lines overnight, pending forecast weather conditions," the service said.

NSWRFS Commissioner Shane Fitzimmons said Saturday was "one of our worst days ever on record" adding that a "considerable number" of properties were destroyed in the state.

A 47-year-old man also died from cardiac arrest while attempting to combat a fire near his friend's home, bringing the death toll to 24.

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New South Wales has declared a state of emergency and neighboring Victoria, where three fires have combined into a single 14,720-acre blaze, has declared a state of disaster.

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