Brushfire devastates Western Australia town

By Ed Adamczyk Contact the Author   |   Jan. 8, 2016 at 7:09 AM
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YARLOOP, Australia, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- A brushfire traveled through a town in remote southwestern Australia, destroying most of the buildings with flames up to 160 feet high.

Yarloop, on Western Australia's coast -- population 545 and 160 miles south of the city of Perth -- was evacuated and devastated by the brushfire. The fire began with a lightning strike and was described by witnesses as "one fireball after another."

With accompanying high and shifting winds, its path is unpredictable and it is now threatening nearby communities.

"It appears that we've lost around 95 houses, a number of structures within the town site including some of the historical buildings, the workshops, some factories ... also losses to post offices, adjacent stores and our own fire station infrastructure," said Wayne Gregson, Western Australia Fire and Emergency Services commissioner.

About 30 homes were left standing, and some residents took shelter at the town's football field and at its community center. Others attached notes, containing their phone numbers, to horses they owned and then set the horses free. One man, 75, was struck by lightning.

"We have been told to sit tight so we cannot see the exact damage yet, but it looks like most of the town has gone," said Carmel Hill, a resident whose home was lost.

There have been no injuries thus far, although the nearby town of Harvey, a cattle and dairy community, is under threat.

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