Victoria, Australia — A cool change, even some some scattered rain, has brought relief to firefighters in the Australian state of Victoria.
Widespread bush fires have been blazing for more than two weeks, burning nearly 3,500 square miles of national parks, farmlands and dozens of family residences.
Cooler weather and a change in the wind direction Saturday came just in time for firefighters to beat back one fire that was within 200 yards of homes in the north-east town of Woods Point.
A spokesman for the Country Fire Authority, Kenneth O’Brien, told reporters some of the 4,000 personnel battling the fires could now go home for Christmas.
“But we will be building up again, about Wednesday or Thursday, with a view to having a significant firefighting force on hand to ensure the control lines are going to hold when the strong winds re-emerge,” he said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister John Howard has asked Australians to remember those suffering in war zones and in areas of natural disasters.
In his annual Christmas message, Howard urged the community to think of those “in areas like Darfur in Africa, and in the troubled Middle East…,” particularly the 3,600 Australian men and women in the defence force who are “spending Christmas away from their loved ones.”
He added it is also a time to reflect on those like “our farmers, heavily afflicted by the drought, and those wonderful firefighters who are grappling with a mass of bush fires that are likely to go on through the summer.”