Fire-ravaged Hunter: NSW premier visits after six homes destroyed

Fire-ravaged Hunter: NSW premier visits after six homes destroyed

14 October 2013

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Australia — The New South Wales premier, Barry O’Farrell, visited bushfire-ravaged communities in the Hunter region as firefighters attempted to damp down 25 uncontained fires across the state.

The NSW rural fire service said six homes were destroyed when fire tore through the area between Salt Ash and Tanilba Bay around Port Stephens on Sunday.

Four were destroyed at Salt Ash and two at Webbs Creek.

The fire service said 60 fires were active across the state on Monday, including the 25 uncontained fires.

It downgraded fires at Fingal Bay and Salt Ash from “watch and act” to “advice” after a southerly change ended 24 hours of extreme conditions.

But it came too late for the mayor of Port Stephens, who hit out at the rural fire service and environmentalists, saying fire-affected residents had not been allowed to carry out hazard reduction burns.

A rural fire service spokeswoman said an out-of-control grass fire in Kempsey had been causing concern earlier on Monday but was subsequently downgraded to “advice” status.

A spokeswoman said parents in the area had been told to keep their children at home on Monday. In the small town of Bellbrook, west of Kempsey, children were evacuated after fire threatened the local public school.

Police in Sydney were reviewing CCTV footage to determine if a careless smoker was responsible for Sunday’s fire that destroyed 47 cars and damaged 33 others at the aquatic centre carpark in Homebush.

The NSW fire and rescue commissioner, Greg Mullins, told reporters on Monday he had not seen a fire like it in 42 years of service.

“The fire was leaping from car to car, being driven by the wind. It was quite amazing,” he said.

Fire service crews also extinguished a fire that destroyed a disused saw mill at Batemans Bay on the NSW south coast early on Monday morning.

In Sydney, a 15-year-old boy was charged with lighting a fire that forced at least 12 people to be evacuated from houses near Backhousia Reserve on Sunday.

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