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New Zealand VIDEOs/PhOtOs-New Bush Fires in Australia-7 Firefighters Hurt

New Fires in Victoria's West

Australia AP, 3 January 2015

*Firefighters are battling new fires in Victoria's west after storms swept the area.
*The cause of the fires is unknown but a lightning band has been blamed for many new fires in the region.
*Watch and act warnings have been issued for townships including Dimboola and Edenhope, with fast-travelling bushfires in the area.
*Residents have been told to leave before conditions worsen.
*Crews are continuing to work on the major Moyston bushfire, which is threatening homes at Moyston and Maroona.

South Australia Bushfires
-Thousands Flee Their Homes as Winds Fan Flames

  • Dozens of homes likely to be lost in Adelaide Hills
  • Fires could be out of control for days
  • Seven firefighters hurt tackling flames

Embers glow against the smoke-filled sunset near Gumeracha in the Adelaide Hills. Photograph: Brenton Edwards/AFP/Getty Images

Thousands of Australians fled their homes as bushfires raged across the nation’s south on Saturday, with firefighters struggling to contain the blazes fanned by strong winds.

Six homes were destroyed by the fires in South Australia and Victoria, officials said, though no serious injuries have been reported.

The South Australia blaze could be the worst to hit the state since the 1983 Ash Wednesday fires when dozens died, the authorities warned.

Dry conditions and temperatures close to 40C were causing headaches for firefighters battling the blazes. Officials said it would likely take days to get the fires under control.

The worst of the fires was in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia, where the flames had destroyed five homes and put hundreds of others at risk, state Country Fire Service spokesman Daniel Hamilton said.

Residents of 19 communities had been asked to evacuate as a predicted shift in the winds later Saturday prompted fears the flames could worsen.

Adelaide Hills residents take shelter in the Golden Grove recreation centre in Adelaide on Saturday. Photograph: David Mariuz/EPA

However, the forecast was also calling for increased humidity, which could slow the fire’s progress Saturday night, Hamilton said.

“There should be no sense of relief because the temperatures are somewhat lower, or that there are spots of rain about,” South Australia premier Jay Weatherill told reporters in Adelaide. “The situation remains extremely dangerous and our warnings that were issued earlier today must be heeded.”

Up to 2,000 firefighters were battling the blazes across the state from the ground and the air, with more than a dozen aircraft dumping water onto the flames.
Seven firefighters were treated for minor conditions, mainly smoke inhalation, Country Fire Service chief officer Greg Nettleton said.

The Adelaide Hills area is facing “an incredibly dangerous fire,” authorities have warned and it is likely dozens of homes have been lost. A state of emergency has been declared.

Earlier the Country Fire Service (CFS) told residents in threatened areas to get out, providing their path was clear.

“Residents in the Adelaide Hills are being confronted by a fire which hasn’t been seen in the hills since the 1983 bushfires of Ash Wednesday,” SA police commissioner Gary Burns said on Saturday morning. “At the moment we have a fire which is extremely dangerous.”

The Humbug Scrub fire which is burning out of control in the Mount Lofty Ranges, north of Adelaide. Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/AAPImage

The scrub fire at Sampson Flat in South Australia’s Mount Lofty Ranges, near One Tree Hill, Millbrook Reservoir, Kersbrook, Gumeracha, Birdwood and Mount Crawford Forrest, is travelling in an erratic manner and burning freely in all directions.

The CFS says lives are at risk in towns including Upper Hermitage, Chain of Ponds and the townships of Inglewood, Houghton, Cudlee Creek, Lower Hermitage, Forreston, Lobethal, Mount Torrens, Charleston, Williamstown, Woodside, Lenswood and Mt Pleasant.

“One of our appliances was caught by the fire and several people have some injuries as a result of that,” CFS spokesman Rob Sandford told ABC radio.

“We don’t know the full extent ... but they are being treated and supported by SA Ambulance.”

Sandford earlier said it was likely that dozens of homes had been destroyed in the blaze.
CFS chief officer Greg Nettleton said the Sampson Flat fire had burned through about 10,000ha of scrub.

A caravan saved from the fire sits on charred earth near One Tree Hill in the Adelaide Hills. Photograph: Brenton Edwards/AFP/Getty Images

Lightning had sparked a number of new fires, causing further headaches for firefighters already working in tough conditions, he said.

“Fortunately none of those fires have grown to any significant size and we’ve been able to control those reasonably quickly,” he said.
Relief centres have been opened at Golden Grove Recreation Centre and at Curdatta Cricket Club in Sandy Creek.

Sandford praised the work of the firefighters. “They’re all working in very arduous conditions and doing very, very hard work,” he said.
“They’re doing their absolute best in what are the worst of conditions imaginable for firefighting.

“We just want them all to come home safe, because this situation is very dynamic and we don’t want the tragedy of any of our firefighters being injured or worse."

In Victoria, one home has been lost in Moyston in the state’s west and conditions were threatening to worsen on Saturday.

In Tasmania a helicopter and five fire crews have brought a bushfire in the state’s south under control.

The blaze flared up at Austin’s Ferry, north of Hobart, on Saturday afternoon but was under control by 3.30pm local time. It was one of a number of bushfires burning around the state, including several in Tasmania’s north.

The Adelaide Hills bushfire would not be brought under control this weekend, firefighters said, as they were concentrating on saving lives and protecting property.

CFS duty controller Ian Tanner said the fire was still burning uncontrolled on several flanks but towns to the south are most at risk on Saturday.

“It’s not a good picture,” he told a meeting of local residents. “We will not put this fire out today or tomorrow. We are concentrating all our efforts on saving lives and saving assets.”
The meeting was told that several properties in the fire zone had been destroyed but the area was too dangerous for firefighters to check on numbers.

A Country Fire Service volunteer douses spot fires beside a burnt out shed near One Tree Hill in the Adelaide Hills. Photograph: Brenton Edwards/AFP/Getty Images

The premier, Jay Weatherill, urged residents who planned to leave the area to do so early. “If you’ve decided to stay, you need to be aware that the fire will become incredibly scary and could lead you to change your mind at some point,” he said.

“It could be a catastrophic decision for you to leave late. At the moment we have a fire which is extremely dangerous.”
“We know in the early hours of this morning we lost a number of homes in Upper Hermitage we have not been able to get in there to determine the asset there loss. So there will be more than five,” Eden said.
“We are also reporting, which is most tragic, two of the homes destroyed were homes of CFS firefighters who were out fighting the fire to protect their community last night.”

About 100 New South Wales Rural Fire Service volunteers will fly to South Australia, leaving about 5.30pm Saturday.

Emergency Services in South Australia have already accepted an offer of a specialist aircraft from NSW, along with other resources, and two air tankers from Victoria.

Smoke from the fire, burning north-east of Adelaide, can be seen from the metropolitan area.
A bushfire at Tantanoola in South Australia’s Lower South East region has eased but may still threaten the safety of residents.

The CFS says ground crews are patrolling and mopping up the fire area.

Australia -Lives in Danger as Bush Fires Threaten Suburbs:

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