Australia fire-fighters battle new blazes

2013-10-23 07:54
Gallery  |  click on thumbnail to view larger image

Firefighters battle Australian blaze

Australian officials warned fires could merge with others to create a "mega-fire" if weather conditions worsen. See pictures of firefighters battling the blaze.

Mount Victoria - Fire-fighters in Australia battled hot, dry winds and soaring temperatures on Wednesday as new blazes began breaking out in a week-long bushfire disaster that shows no signs of easing.

As the crisis entered its seventh day, at least 65 fires were raging across the state of New South Wales with 18 of them uncontained and warnings again issued for people to leave their homes or be extra vigilant.

"On days like today, minutes really matter," NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said, with the focus again on the Blue Mountains region west of Sydney, a popular tourist area home to 75 000 people where three huge infernos have been burning for days.

One of them, in Springwood where more than 100 homes were lost last week, was upgraded to the highest "emergency" level.

But fires were also breaking out elsewhere around the vast state with a blaze at Minmi near Newcastle, north of Sydney, which was deemed an "emergency" as it closed the main freeway that links the two cities and sparked traffic chaos.

"If you are Minmi, follow your survival plan. If your plan is to leave, leave now," the RFS said.

Another blaze at Colo, to the northwest of Sydney, was burning aggressively with water-bombing aircraft attempting to bring it under control, although the high winds were hampering the effort.

"It's a very fluid situation. It's a very dynamic situation," said the fire chief.

Backburning

So far more than 120 000 hectares of land has been burnt across the state and more than 200 homes destroyed. But only one person has died as residents heed advice to either flee or head to evacuation centres.

Temperatures were at the mid-30 degrees Celsius range on Wednesday and coupled with low humidity and forecast wind gusts of up to 100km per hour, the fire chief called the conditions "as bad as it gets".

Drizzle overnight "settled down fire grounds" but it also hampered the mostly volunteer crews fighting the blazes.

"Whilst that is some welcome relief in terms of moderating the current fire behaviour, it has compromised considerably the ability to continue with the backburning operations that were planned throughout the evening," Fitzsimmons said.

Backburning is a tactic aimed at creating firebreaks to control the path of blazes.

This has been a key focus of operations ahead of Wednesday, but the light rain meant many fire-fighters had to be withdrawn from forest trails due to fears that their trucks could get bogged down.

Much of the dampness has dried out and Fitzsimmons said: "We're seeing the winds strengthen and that's resulting in fire activity starting to be generated. As we speak we're identifying a number of new fires".

He added: "What can't be denied is there is something like 1 600km of fire perimeter that we're dealing with. Now, that's all active to one degree or another.

"No one knows where that fire activity will stir up under today's weather."

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell drove home the message, saying regardless of what happens on Wednesday "we're not out of the woods yet".

He also said reports were filtering in of people trying to cash in other people's misery, with one landlord hiking up the rent for his property in the Blue Mountains because of demand with so many homes already lost.

"It is just as gut-wrenching to hear this story as it is to hear of reports that 11-year-old children have lit fires or that there has been alleged reports of looting," he told Fairfax Media.

"The last week has been characterised by communities and volunteers coming together to fight fires and support people and then you are pulled up by these acts of what I describe as bastardry."

Read more on:    australia  |  fires

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.