Hotter, drier summers in Australia mean longer fire seasons – and urban sprawl into bushland is putting more people at risk

At first the smoke on the horizon “didn’t look like anything major,” says Joe Mercieca of that day in 2013. But then the wind picked up.

His house in the Blue Mountains, an hour and a half out of Sydney, was soon surrounded by the blaze. “I told my wife it was too late, let’s retreat,” he says. Mercieca, Merylese and their dog took shelter in the concrete fire bunker they had built beneath their house. “We sat in there and listened to everything explode.”

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Read More Sydney’s bushfire season starts in winter: ‘We may have to rethink how we live’

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