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Australian residents urged to flee 'house-high' wildfires

by Staff Writers
Sydney (AFP) Dec 29, 2009
Australian officials urged residents to evacuate a wheat farming district in the west of the country Tuesday as towering wildfires with flames higher than rooftops threatened homes.

People in the Dandaragan area north of Perth were told to flee immediately as the fast-moving and out-of-control blaze, fanned by "catastrophic" conditions in Western Australia, showered embers.

"Homes will be impacted by fire. People in this area need to relocate now," the state's Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) warned in a statement.

"The bushfire is moving fast in a southeast direction. It is out of control. Embers are likely to be blown around your home. Flames are higher than rooftops," it added.

Residents in nearby Toodyay were also evacuated as an intense fire broke out there, threatening at least seven homes in the town of about 400 people, FESA said.

"It is out of control, unpredictable and fast moving," it said. "Spot fires are starting ahead of the fire. Flames are one to two metres high."

The fire authority said evacuation offered the best option for survival, warning that "relocating at the last minute is deadly". It was uncertain how many homes were in the evacuation zones, FESA said.

"It would mainly be farmhouses," a spokesman told AFP. "Pretty sparse and mainly farming communities."

Aircraft were water-bombing the two fires, while more than 100 firefighters were trying to control them from the ground.

Much of Western Australia had been declared at a "catastrophic" or code red fire danger, with authorities fearing the worst conditions in five years.

Catastrophic conditions are considered on a par with those ahead of February's Black Saturday wildfires, which killed 173 people and razed more than 2,000 homes in Australia's worst natural disaster of modern times.

Residents cannot be forced to evacuate but are strongly advised to leave their properties due to extreme risk of death or injury.

Blazes have already destroyed more than a dozen homes in recent weeks. Officials are bracing for the worst fire season in four years with hot and windy conditions forecast amid a decade-long drought in parts of the country.

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Australians evacuated as fires rage
Sydney (AFP) Dec 24, 2009
Australian holidaymakers were evacuated Thursday from a campsite in the path of raging wildfires, a day after an inferno destroyed 13 homes in the country's southeast, officials said. Fire crews in Victoria state were on high alert as strong winds and searing temperatures prompted extreme fire warnings, but most of the eight wildfires burning across the state had been brought under control, ... read more

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