Australian bushfires paint the sky red

Orange skies that turn a bleeding red.

It's a nightmarish scene across Australia as bushfires continue to burn

on New Year's Eve.

The blazes have destroyed as area the size of Japan, mostly along the east coast.

Authorities fear that three people have been killed in New South Wales

and another four were reported missing in Victoria.

Fighting these fires has cost the lives of nine firefighters so far-- three were volunteers.

And the youngest who died on Monday -- was just 28 -- described by NSW fire chief Shane Fitzsimmons as an "extraordinary loss."

(SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW SOUTH WALES RURAL FIRE SERVICE COMMISSIONER, SHANE FITZSIMMONS, SAYING:

"The firefighter that lost his life was Samuel McPaul, Sam McPaul, a young man, 28 years of age, well respected and admired throughout the local community and in his local brigade. He leaves behind tragically a beautiful wife, Megan, who is pregnant with their first child, that's due on the fourth of May. (pause, teary)As you would expect, the family is grieving and it's been a very difficult night. It would be fair to say I don't even think the comprehension has set in of the enormity of the tragedy and the loss."

The ferocity has never been seen on this scale before.

A 'fire tornado' overturned a firefighters truck.

Lightning strikes have also sparked blazes in the eastern states which have been enduring a long drought with tinder-dry conditions.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW SOUTH WALES RURAL FIRE SERVICE COMMISSIONER, SHANE FITZSIMMONS, SAYING:

"The local crews that were able to catch up with in the field at the accident scene, describe what they experienced as truly horrific. They described it as an extraordinary wind event, describing it as an fire tornado or they even believe it might have been a collapse of a pyro-convective column that had formed above the main firefront. That's resulted in cyclonic type winds that has moved across the fire ground and has literally lifted up a 10 or 12 tonne fire truck and flipped it onto it's roof."

Survival has forced holidaygoers to hide in the water or seek refuge in boats.

And in Sydney ahead of the New Year's Eve Harbour Bridge fireworks smoke has cloaked the city.

But authorities say despite public calls for them to be canceled in solidarity with fire-hit areas, they'll go ahead as planned.

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