NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia — The New South Wales Police Force has taken legal action against more than 180 people for bushfire-related offenses since late last year. That number includes 24 people who deliberately lit bushfires.
Nationwide, at least 25 people have been killed and 2,000 homes destroyed by the blazes, which have so far scorched an area twice the size of the U.S. state of Maryland, the Associated Press reports.
Wildfires are common during the southern hemisphere summer, and Australians generally take a pragmatic view of them. But this year’s fires arrived unusually early, fed by drought and the country’s hottest and driest year on record.
Rain and cooler temperatures on Monday were bringing some relief to communities battling the fires. But the rain was also making it challenging for fire crews to complete strategic burns as they tried to prepare for higher temperatures that have been forecast for later in the week.