Sydney (AFP) Dec 10, 2009
More than 120 wildfires fanned by high winds and soaring temperatures raged in southeastern Australia Thursday, prompting emergency warnings for several towns, officials said.
Some 2,000 firefighters tackled the fires in New South Wales, where a large blaze was burning dangerously close to farming properties in the state's northwest.
"A fire is burning in very high fire-danger conditions, and is currently between two and six hours away from properties," the Rural Fire Service (RFS) said.
"Under these conditions fires can be difficult to control and flames may burn from the ground to the tree-tops."
It urged residents of Bundarra and Barraba towns to be ready to evacuate, warning that "fires will be uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast moving".
New South Wales and neighbouring Queensland, which was also fighting several fires, suffered sweltering conditions on Thursday with temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
"Really we have got so many fires ... any number of them may pose a risk," said RFS assistant commissioner Rob Rogers.
The RFS later said conditions were expected to ease on Friday from around 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), giving some relief to firefighters.
On Wednesday, a park ranger died and a pilot was seriously injured when their helicopter crashed while mapping fires. A day earlier, two water-bombing helicopters clipped tail rotors in mid-air, but no one was injured.
Australia is still reeling from February's Black Saturday disaster, when fires engulfed entire towns and claimed 173 lives in Victoria state.
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Forest and Wild Fires - News, Science and Technology
Australia battles wildfires as threat eases: officials
Rylstone, Australia (AFP) Nov 23, 2009
Australian firefighters battled to contain scores of blazes in the country's southeast on Monday as a sharp drop in temperatures eased fears for dozens of threatened homes. About 600 firefighters backed by water-bombing aircraft were fighting 82 fires around New South Wales state, including a major inferno near the country villages of Rylstone and Kandos. Temperatures plunged to about 21 ... read more
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