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Stunned residents sift through ashes in Australia
by Staff Writers
Yellow Rock, Australia Oct 22, 2013

The granite slabs that were once a kitchen bench are still warm five days after a horrifying firestorm tore through Tegan Mobbs' Blue Mountains home in Australia, reducing it to ashen rubble. A chimneystack and fireplace are all that remain upright in the ruins of what was once a five-bedroom home on a picturesque five-acre bush block in Yellow Rock, west of Sydney. As fire crews scrambled Tuesday to clear buffer zones between another fire front and protect homes in dozens of Blue Mountains villages lying in its path, Mobbs' scorched street is a stark reminder of the inferno's force and how much is at stake as conditions intensify. Her immediate neighbours escaped unscathed during last week's out-of-control blaze because they were home to fight the flames. But Mobbs -- a policewoman stationed in Sydney -- and her partner, Jo Graham, were both at work when the crisis struck and unable to save their home. "They said one minute there was nothing, the next minute there was just a wall of flame," Mobbs, 28, told AFP. The fire travelled so fast Mobbs said there was scarcely enough time to get home and by the time Jo got there the house was already in flames, their two dogs trapped in the backyard "with the burning house around them". "(Jo's) just gone in there and grabbed them, threw them in the pool because they were burning hot, and drove them round to a friend's," she said. "She gave me a call as she was walking back to the car and said 'don't bother coming home, it's gone'". The couple had been living in the street for barely 12 months and lost everything with the exception of their best friend's wedding ring, which she had left at their home just days earlier. They discovered it sifting through the rubble, which still emanated heat five days later due to the intensity of the flames. "Even the streets not backing onto bush have also been affected, it's weird. The wind's just picked (the fire) up and taken it." Mobbs grew up in the Blue Mountains -- her mother lives in Winmalee which is currently in the path of the flames with weather conditions worsening on Wednesday -- and wildfires are simply a part of life for local residents. But this was a blaze that broke the rules. They had been prepared to evacuate just weeks earlier when a fire had been forecast to hit their area, with all their valuables packed in the car ready to go. But the threat passed, just in time for Mobbs' birthday a week ago, and the couple had unpacked their things to celebrate. The living area had been full of gifts and cash. Emergency crews were unable to make it to their home, trapped fighting the firestorm in a neighbouring street, where the panorama has been reduced to charred forest and the warped shells of what were once houses. "All the guys that I've grown up with, gone to school with -- you walk down that street and everybody knows somebody who's lost their homes," said Mobbs. "It's just a numb feeling. You're looking at it but you're not really looking at it. "You got through your bouts where your stomach actually feels sick." Though inventories have been drawn up for the insurance company to begin the painstaking process of rebuilding, it's the small things that are irreplaceable. Nothing will bring back their house cat -- who hasn't been seen since the inferno -- or the mulberry tree lovingly tended in the yard, and there are books in Jo's prized library that are now out of print and can never be substituted. Despite the experience Mobbs, who only has a police uniform and jumpsuit left to call her own, said they would start over on the destroyed site. "We used to come out every day and say 'I love our little place'. So we will rebuild," she said.


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Australian bushfires threaten to reach parts of Sydney
Sydney (AFP) Oct 20, 2013
Australian fire crews were bracing Sunday for some of the worst conditions in decades as several major blazes threatened to merge into a mammoth firefront that could reach Sydney. More than 200 homes have already been destroyed and another 120 damaged by the wildfires, which broke out across New South Wales state in unseasonably warm weather last week, fanned by extremely high winds. Th ... read more

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