Sydney: five years from now. There has been no rain in the catchments for 247 days. Warragamba Dam, Sydney's main source of water, is at its lowest level in recorded history. The state government has built a 250-megalitre desalination plant to "drought-proof" the city. At least, that was the promise.
David Langmore (Cameron Daddo) is the state operations commander for the National Fire Service (NFS). He rises on Christmas Eve to find that a combination of sustained drought, extreme weather conditions and lightning strikes has created a nightmare scenario the worst bushfire conditions imaginable. Even with his years of experience, he is unprepared for what is about to unfold and he knows that what goes down today will rest firmly on his shoulders.
Susan Shapiro (Rachael Carpani), a TV news journalist, has sensed that this day was coming. She has been trying to get to the heart of Sydney's water crisis for months. But like David Langmore, she could never have imagined how the day's events would involve her personally, nor how she would be caught up in the revelation of secret deals underpinning Sydney's water management and electricity supplies.
Michael Francia (Vince Colosimo), a doctor in accident and emergency, is also feeling the heat from very early in the day. The air in the city's west is thick with smoke and he is struggling to keep on top of the growing number of respiratory admissions. If Michael thought going to work would deliver some breathing space from the tension at home, he was mistaken. Dealing with Emily (Kathryn Beck), his teenage daughter from a previous marriage, is a breeze compared to the crises that come pouring through the hospital doors.
By midday on Christmas Eve, the entire city is ringed by huge bushfires burning out of control. Mother Nature is on the warpath. A state of emergency is declared.
Premier Angela Boardman (Georgie Parker) is a woman whose career like the city itself is teetering on the brink of disaster. It depends on the successful management of the bushfire crisis. But this is made increasingly difficult as secret deals she has done, and bad decisions she has made, begin to emerge.
Despite calls for calm, panic rises. More and more suburbs succumb to the flames. The city's infrastructure groans under the pressure. Power lines melt. Communications go down. Hospitals are running on generators with limited fuel and there is barely any water in the fire hoses to fight the fires. In the wash-up, hundreds of people have lost their lives and thousands have lost their homes. And the allocation of responsibility provides no comfort for those who have lost loved ones and everything they owned.