FIRE bans are in place across most states and residents in Victoria's Black Saturday hot spots have been told to have their evacuation plans ready as the country braces for the most extreme heatwave in decades.
Temperatures are expected to soar well into the 40s in Victoria, inland NSW and far north Queensland most days in the next three weeks.
An extreme fire warning is also in place in the Wimmera district in South Australia where bushfires have already destroyed several rural properties in the past two months.
The Bureau of Meteorology predicts the heat wave could last right through summer.
Drought-like conditions can also be expected in February and March in the same parts of south-east Queensland and NSW which experienced flooding that time last year.
The forecast prompted a warning from National Seniors' Australia about the threat soaring temperatures posed to the elderly.
Chief Executive Michael O'Neill said "70-somethings" were most at risk.
He urged the community to check on their relatives and neighbours and make sure they were in a cool environment, with plenty of water.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.