Last Saturday, 7th Feb was the hottest day Melbourne has ever recorded at 46.4C (115F). I live 50 miles away and our max was 45.5Celsius (114F) with howling hot winds. The extent of the various fires & devastation is just unbelievable. Some of these places are relatively close to Melbourne, and virtually all are the very best motorcycling country. The death toll stands at 181 currently some some whole small towns are closed off as crime scenes. Many people have lost all of their possessions other than the clothes that they are wearing.
Info here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Victorian_bushfires
Updates here http://www.theage.com.au/
In the past Aussie fire fighters have actually been supported by firefighters who have flown here from the USA and we rent some of the firefighting helicopters from the US as it is your winter.
Although we only have a population of 20 million and times are tough financially for many, $30 million has been donated to assist people in just 2 days.
Update: one week on now, and the donations by Aussies now stands at $100 million.
Our fire season is far from over, but we are hoping & praying that things get no worse.