Homes destroyed in South Australian bushfire

Homes destroyed in South Australian bushfire

04 January 2015

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Australia — More than 30 homes are believed ruined and 22 people are injured as a devastating bushfire burns through the Adelaide Hills for a third day.

But South Australian police announced they had accounted for two people who had been reported as possibly missing.

A Cudlee Creek woman and an elderly Kersbrook man were located safe and well after seeking refuge from the fire, police said.

The Country Fire Service downgraded its emergency warning to a watch-and-act message on Sunday, but said the blaze continued to burn freely in all directions.

Among the communities still considered at risk were those at One Tree Hill, Humbug Scrub, Mount Crawford, Kersbrook, Birdwood, Gumeracha, Kenton Valley, Cudlee Creek and Inglewood.

At least a dozen homes have been confirmed destroyed, and there are fears for 20 others.

More than 1100 properties in those areas were without power on Sunday evening because of the fire, which has burned through almost 13,000 hectares of the hills.

Twenty-two people, mostly firefighters, have been injured and one fire truck destroyed in what’s been described as the worst fire in the Adelaide Hills since the Ash Wednesday blaze in 1983 in which 28 people died in South Australia.

With more than 20 roads into the fire zone remaining closed, many frustrated evacuees have been prevented from returning to their homes.

Police confirmed they had arrested one person for repeatedly trying to access the fire zone at a control point.

Premier Jay Weatherill cautioned residents against trying to return to their homes too soon, saying there were serious concerns about trees falling on vehicles in the fire zone.

The main priority would be to contain the blaze within its general perimeter before more hot weather arrives on Wednesday.

“The objective of this is obviously to ensure that the fire does not spread under the worsening conditions, but also to open up as many areas as possible,” the premier said.

Conditions were cooler in the hills on Sunday with a top temperature in Adelaide of 30.5C.

Slightly warmer days were forecast for Monday on Tuesday before the mercury was likely to surge again into the high 30s.

Police are investigating if the fire was sparked by an incinerator on a property at Sampson Flat, though the tenant has denied the suggestion.

He told the Sunday Mail he hadn’t used the incinerator since moving onto the land four months ago.

Members of the community have banded together in support of the bushfire victims, flooding a relief centre at Golden Grove with donations of food, water and bedding.

Jesse Wakeman, 27, who was left stranded when roads to his Kersbrook home were closed, said he was staying with friends until he could return home, and even long lost acquaintances had offered support.

“We really don’t know what we’ve got left, as far as stock and the house itself,” he told AAP.

“But everyone has been really, really supportive.”

The government is offering emergency relief grants of up to $700 for families affected by the fire, as well as short-term accommodation.

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