An emergency situation has been declared in response to the bushfire threat near Darwin, with dangerous weather conditions set to worsen on Thursday.
A total fire ban declared on Wednesday will remain in place, with extreme conditions forecast in the Darwin and Adelaide River forecast zones and severe conditions to stretch as far south as Katherine.
A fire near Lake Bennett that took hold on Monday night was downgraded from watch and act level to advice on Wednesday afternoon.
Bureau of Meteorology NT manager Todd Smith said dangerous conditions fuelled by “exceptionally dry air”, high inland temperatures and a high pressure system to the south would peak on Thursday and last for the rest of the week.
He said the fire danger forecast could reach catastrophic levels in exposed areas between Batchelor and Adelaide River on Thursday.
“This sort of weather set-up is something that we will probably only see once every five years,” he said.
An emergency operation centre was set up in Darwin on Wednesday.
A spokeswoman for Emergency Services Minister Nicole Manison confirmed an emergency situation had been declared late on Wednesday afternoon.
It means authorised officers can issue directions to property owners and evacuate residents by force if necessary.
‘Unpredictable’ conditions for volunteers
Forecasters warned dry winds were expected to persist overnight on Wednesday.
Bushfires NT executive director Collene Bremner said Wednesday’s 65 kilometre per hour winds and dry conditions had made firefighting difficult for volunteers.
Ms Bremner said an extra waterbombing helicopter had been sent from South Australia to the Top End to assist.
The NT Health Department issued a statement on Wednesday warning smoke from the fires was affecting air quality and could pose a risk to people with respiratory conditions.