Fire 'Too Big to Put Out' May Blanket Australia's Biggest City In Smoke for Months

A wildfire blazing 37 miles northwest from Sydney, Australia has been determined to be "too big to put out," leaving residents to evacuate and the city with the prospect of months of heavy smoke.

The fire is currently 1,150 square miles across and is comprised of several fires merging into one. Called the Gospers Mountain mega blaze, 2,200 firefighters are reported to be out in the field battling the fire, with groups of Canadian and American firefighters said to be joining them soon. Walkabout Wildlife Park has evacuated hundreds of animals to keep them safe from the fire.

But the Bureau of Meteorology declared that some of the fires were too big to extinguish and would only be put out when the country received a good rain. Sydney may be blanketed in smoke for weeks—possibly months.

Sydney has already been enduring higher smoke levels than normal, and hospital officials report a 10 percent increase in admissions. Health officials warn that those who inhale the smoke long term might see effects similar to smoking cigarettes.

Sydney, Australia
The Sydney Opera House is shown here covered in orange smoke from the bushfires. Getty/Cameron Spencer

"A cigarette is basically a plant that we purposely inhale. And in bushfires, it's another plant that we're inhaling the smoke from, so it's not surprising the health effects are actually quite similar," said Associate Professor Brian Oliver, an expert in respiratory disease from the University of Technology, Sydney to the BBC.

"We cannot stop these fires, they will just keep burning until conditions ease, and then we'll try to do what we can to contain them," said NSW RFS deputy commissioner, Rob Rogers to the ABC.

His words were echoed by Ingleburn fire officials, who said in part, "If your property is not prepared for the bushfire season and you're not sure you are able or capable of defending your property if a fire approaches, you need to leave straight away."

The fire risk is not set to abate, with Tuesday's temperatures set to soar over 104 degrees.

Since October, a particularly dry fire season has resulted in six deaths and more than 700 homes being destroyed, spurring alarm and calling for a greater focus on climate change. Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania have all seen bushfires during this season, with 14.8 million acres of land burned in New South Wales alone.

Ninety-five bushfires are currently blazing across Australia at press time, and nine of those fires have been raised to emergency level warnings.

"There is an absolute lack of moisture in the soil, a lack of moisture in the vegetation... you are seeing fires started very easily and they are spreading extremely quickly, and they are burning ridiculously intensely," RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.