Australian firefighters face tough fire conditions

Australian firefighters face tough fire conditions

10 December 2009

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Australia —

More than 120 wildfires were burning in one Australian state Thursday and forecasters warned of severe fire danger in parts of another as temperatures and winds increased across parts of the country’s south.

Some fires in New South Wales were threatening rural towns. About 2,000 firefighters across the state were battling fires, many of which were started by lightning strikes Tuesday. Fire officials were concerned about hot, dry weather and wind forecasts of 25 to 27 miles (40 to 60 kilometers) an hour.

Residents of the town of Bundarra in the state’s north were told to enact their bushfire survival plans _ to either evacuate or be ready to stay and fight the fire from their homes _ as winds picked up and firefighters struggled to contain an advancing fire.

State Premier Kristina Keneally toured fire-affected areas and offered assistance to farmers who lost property in the blazes. She also paid tribute to a park ranger who died Wednesday in the crash of a firefighting helicopter.

Aaron Harber, 41, worked as a contractor with the Rural Fire Service for the last 12 years.

“We honor him, we honor his family, and we honor the sacrifice he has made,” Keneally said.

In Queensland state, forecasters expected temperatures up to 107 degrees Fahrenheit (42 C) and warned of dangerous fire conditions in grasslands and forests.

Australia faces more than 50,000 fires in an average year.

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