Bush fires continue to threaten Australia

Jan. 9, 2013 at 3:39 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- Bush fires continued to ravage Australia on Wednesday as a heat wave moved up the east coast to Queensland, fire officials said.

Cooler weather in New South Wales helped firefighters there, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported. But Anthony Clark, an official with the state's Rural Fire Service, warned the center of the country is enduring temperatures as high as 122 degrees Fahrenheit that could blow east.

Slightly better conditions Wednesday allowed firefighters in some areas to make progress, officials said. But in the Brisbane area, temperatures hit 104 degrees.

In recent weeks fires have consumed acres of pastureland and burned homes from Queensland in the north to Tasmania in the south. One victim early Wednesday was a historic rural mansion at Carngham Station near Ballarat in Victoria.

Some of the fires have been blamed on arson. In Victoria, three fires that broke out Wednesday at about 30 minute intervals may have been deliberately set.

Some neighborhoods on Bribie Island north of Brisbane were evacuated because of fires. Christine Knyvett, a resident of the island, said the fires have so far spared buildings but have been scary.

"When I went home at lunchtime today it was just a mass of smoke and embers all over the pool -- all over the back veranda -- and you couldn't see very much except for just feeling the heat and seeing the blow," she said. "At this stage it's in the state forest and we haven't heard of any homes being lost or anything like that in White Patch."

Rob Rogers, deputy director of the Rural Fire Service in New South Wales, said conditions there were so bad Tuesday volunteer firefighters were deployed to areas where fires had not broken out just in case.

"It's pretty awful conditions and some of the worst I can recall in 30 years of doing this stuff," he told The Sydney Morning Herald.

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