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The Australian flag flies under red skies from fires on Jan. 4 in Bruthen, Victoria. Photos: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

The Orroral Valley fire has burned through nearly 25% of the district that's home to Australia's capital, News.com.au reports, after ACT Emergency Controller Georgeina Whelan said the fire was rapidly growing into the south east on Saturday.

The latest: The Orroral fire grew from 81,544 acres to at least 129,073 acres on Saturday, based on Whelan's initial statement, and ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr's following estimate. Whelan said the Orroral fire is expected to move "well into" New South Wales, which creates potential for it to reach and merge with other bushfires in the area.

"My fire crews may not be able to protect you and your property. You should not expect a firefighter at every door."
— Whelan on Saturday, urging residents to remain vigilant and take action to protect themselves.

The impact: Since September, hundreds of bushfires have raged across Australia, killing at least 33 people — including three U.S. airmen, who died fighting fires when their air tanker crashed in the Snowy Mountains, NSW, last Thursday.

  • Over 1 billion native animals have perished in the blazes, which have destroyed some 2,500 homes and a total land area one-third of the size of California, per Reuters.
  • Three New South Wales firefighters were injured when a tree fell on to their truck while managing a massive fire in the Australian Capital Territory, per the Stawell Times.

Political response: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told a news conference Thursday the state would launch a six-month independent inquiry this week to examine the causes of the fires, how prepared the state was and its response, along with contributing factors including climate change.

  • Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Jan. 12 of plans for a judicial inquiry into the country's wildfires as he admitted there were "things I could have handled on the ground much better."
  • Morrison has faced criticism over his leadership during the deadly fire season since he went on vacation as much of the country burned in December. He's also been criticized for his government's climate policies.

U.S. support: The American firefighters who died were among several U.S. crews who've been fighting bushfires and assisting with response alongside Australian personnel in New South Wales and Victoria this month, along with the Australian Defense Force and some 3,000 Defense Force Reservists.

Go deeper:

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

Updated 53 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Biden holds first phone call with Putin, raises Navalny arrest

Putin takes a call in 2017. Photo: Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty

President Biden on Tuesday held his first call since taking office with Vladimir Putin, pressing the Russian president on the arrest of opposition leader Alexey Navalny and the Russia-linked hack on U.S. government agencies.

The state of play: Biden also raised arms control, bounties allegedly placed on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine, according to a White House readout. The statement said Biden and Putin agreed maintain "consistent communication," and that Biden stressed the U.S. would "act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies."

Biden signs racial equity executive orders

Joe Biden prays at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on September 3, 2020, in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. PHOTO: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed executive orders on housing and ending the Justice Department's use of private prisons as part of what the White House is calling his “racial equity agenda.”

The big picture: Biden needs the support of Congress to push through police reform or new voting rights legislation. The executive orders serve as his down payment to immediately address systemic racism while he focuses on the pandemic.