Koala rescued from flames of Australia wildfire, badly burned as blazes rage across country

As wildfires continue to rage across parts of Australia, people are stepping up to help the smallest of victims from the flames.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service said Wednesday there are 49 brush and grass fires burning across the state where Syndey is located. Of those blazes currently burning, 25 have yet to be contained.

"Firefighters will work overnight to undertake important backburning to protect properties ahead of worsening fire conditions tomorrow," the agency tweeted.

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A dramatic rescue emerged on Tuesday when a woman was captured on video pulling a badly burned and wailing koala from an Australian bushfire. The marsupial was crossing a road that had erupted in flames near Long Flat in New South Wales when it was spotted by a passer-by, who ran and wrapped the animal in her shirt and poured water all over it.

"He just went straight into the flames, and I just jumped out of the car and went straight to him," the woman who saved the koala, Toni Doherty, told Australia's Nine News.

The male koala -- now named "Lewis" -- was taken to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, where he is being closely monitored by staff after he sustained serious burns.

A hospital spokesperson told the news outlet the marsupial's feet are "completely burnt," and he has burns to his chest and stomach. His injuries are so severe that he may not be allowed back in the wild if he survives.

"He is probably 50-50 at this stage," a spokesperson told the news outlet.

If Lewis does survive his injuries, he'll be one of the lucky ones. Officials have feared that hundreds of koalas may have perished in the wildfires that have burned through prime habitat on Australia's east coast over the past two weeks.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital President Sue Ashton has previously said a fire in a forest in New South Wales state, located 190 miles north of Sydney, was burning through about two-thirds of the koala habitat. The koala colony impacted by the blaze was particularly healthy and genetically diverse, Ashton said.

The marsupials climb high into trees during wildfires and survive if the fire front passes quickly below them.

In the wake of the blazes, animal rescues have been fanning out to try to find any koalas that may have been injured.

A cattle dog cross-breed named Bear that has obsessive-compulsive disorder has been helping animal rescuers by sniffing out the marsupials in burnt-out forests.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare shared photos on Facebook of the mutt searching charred forests with his handler looking for any survives.

"This is the first year that we have been involved in the fires," Romane Cristescu, Bear's minder and ecologist at The University of the Sunshine Coast, told Sky News. "It is a bit more dangerous than what we usually do."

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The wildfires in Australia have pushed the air quality beyond "hazardous" levels across Sydney. The annual Australian fire season, which peaks during the Southern Hemisphere summer, has started early after an unusually warm and dry winter.

Fires have destroyed 577 homes in New South Wales so far this season, and the danger is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

An image taken on a smartphone from a plane window shows smoke haze blanketing Sydney on, November 19, 2019.

An image taken on a smartphone from a plane window shows smoke haze blanketing Sydney on, November 19, 2019. (AAP Image/Neil Bennett/via REUTERS)

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Several wildfires are also burning out of control in the South Australia state with catastrophic weather conditions prompting fire officials to issue emergency warnings.

"As the Bureau of Meteorology advised us yesterday with their forecast, those conditions have come to fruition so we have seen actual catastrophic fire conditions start off from midmorning this morning and they are still in place now," Rob Sandford with the South Australia State Country Fire Authority said Wednesday. "So, they are the worst conditions that our people could be operating in and the worst conditions when a fire gets going."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.