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Wildfires sweep Australia as police investigate

(CNN) — As Australia’s eastern states battle more than a hundred wildfires, local police are opening investigations into a small number of the blazes.

On Tuesday, Queensland’s police commissioner Katarina Carroll announced she had established a task force to investigate eight fires, and said that some “have involved children playing.”

Wildfires are an annual occurrence in the area, with more than 130 fires currently burning across the neighboring eastern states of Queensland and New South Wales.

As of Tuesday midday, Queensland was battling 80 fires, said Queensland’s acting premier Jackie Trad during a press conference. New South Wales had 52 bush and grass fires, with most in the state’s north, according to its Rural Fire Service.

A 12-year-old boy was apprehended Monday behind a skate park in Queensland state, following investigations into a fire which destroyed bushland and part of a storage facility, according to police. And two 14-year-old girls who had been found at the scene of another “alleged deliberately-lit fire” are helping investigators with their inquiries, according to Queensland police.

Near the town of Peregian Beach, on Australia’s Sunshine Coast, 400 people were holed up at emergency evacuation centers after those communities were engulfed by “an ember storm”, added Jackie Trad. An evacuation order remains in place there, according to Queensland’s Fire and Emergency Services.

Firefighters on Long Gully Road in the northern New South Wales town of Drake, Australia.
CREDIT: DARREN ENGLAND/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

In around 130 years of records, Queensland has never seen fires this severe this early in spring, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services’ predictive services inspector Andrew Sturgess told media Sunday.

The fires are being aided by dry air, swift winds, and above-average temperatures, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Queensland and New South Wales are prone to wildfires in spring and early summer, and this year’s fires follow Australia’s hottest summer on record, which brought worsening drought, damaging bushfires, and very low rainfall.

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