More rain was forecast for Friday and the weekend which, if it does fall, would be the most sustained period of wet weather since the crisis began in September last year
Heavy rain fell across parts of fire-ravaged eastern Australia on Thursday and more wet weather was forecast, giving some relief following months of catastrophic blazes fuelled by climate change.
The fires, unprecedented for Australia in terms of duration and intensity, have claimed 28 lives and killed an estimated billion animals.
Sustained hot weather and rare periods of light rain in the affected areas have deepened the crisis.
Downpours on Thursday in the state of New South Wales, where many of the worst fires have burnt, offered hope that dozens of blazes could be brought under control.
"Relief is here for a number of firefighters working across NSW," the state's Rural Fire Service said in a social media post accompanying footage of rain falling in a burning forest.
"Although this rain won't extinguish all fires, it will certainly go a long way towards containment."
Before the rains, there were 30 blazes burning out of control in New South Wales.
Along the south coast of the state, locals who witnessed towns and forests being destroyed in recent weeks expressed cautious hope.
"We’re thrilled and so relieved to have some dampness in the air because it makes things safe for a little while," Virginia Connor told AFP near the town of Nowra.
"But we need more, we need lots more."
Great to see some rain fall in Australia 👌 pic.twitter.com/GsiOFYOqXOJanuary 16, 2020
Smoke from bushfires choked the southern city of Melbourne from Monday to Wednesday, disrupting the build-up to next week's Australian Open tennis tournament.
But thunderstorms late Wednesday cleared the smoke, with the wet weather moving east throughout Thursday towards fires in the southern state of Victoria.
"Storms have improved air quality in most parts of the state," the Victorian Environment Protection Agency said.
More rain was forecast for Friday and the weekend which, if it does fall, would be the most sustained period of wet weather since the crisis began in September last year.
Still, with January, February and March typically seeing some of the hottest weather in Australia, the bushfire crisis was far from over.
"We still have a long way to go," said Robyn Duell, a senior climatologist with the Bureau of Meteorology.
"And with higher temperatures, we'll continue to see an elevated risk of bushfires as we move through summer and early autumn."
This week's rains could also make battles harder for firefighters in some cases, by making it harder for trucks to venture deep into forests on muddy tracks, authorities warned.
Flash floods are another concern, with scorched mountains unable to hold the water and potentially sending torrents of muddy ash into waterways.