rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » News » Aus fire crisis eases, but firefighters warn fight isn't over

Aus fire crisis eases, but firefighters warn fight isn't over

October 25, 2013 14:10 IST

Drop in temperature has slightly eased the bushfire crisis in Australia's New South Wales region on Fridayeven as firefighters continued to work to contain the blazes which they claimed could take weeks to extinguish.

Rural Fire Services spokeswoman said firefighters in the Blue Mountains were taking advantage of cooler temperatures to strengthen containment lines.

"The threat is continuing to ease but we're still asking people to be vigilant because there is such a large amount of fires still active," the spokeswoman was quoted by the Australian Associated Press as saying.

"The threat is continuing to ease but we're still asking people to be vigilant because there is such a large amount of fires still active," the spokeswoman said adding, "Overnight it has been back burning on most of those fires and patrolling the containment lines, as well as mopping up and blacking out.

"With the cooler weather we want to strengthen those containment lines."

A combination of high winds and temperatures on Wednesday had fuelled fears the bush fires burning across a 1,000-mile stretch of New South Wales would spread even farther.

"But thanks to fire crews' "extraordinary" work, helped out by some unexpected light rain overnight, the worst of the danger has been avoided," said Rural Fire Service   Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

Many families living in the Blue Mountains can now return home, he said, although they should be aware that conditions could still change. Fitzsimmons reported 24 of the 66 active fires are uncontained and raging across a wide swath of Australia's most populous state destroying at least 193 homes in the Blue Mountains area.

Currently, there has been three "Watch and Act" alerts for blazes burning at Springwood, MountVictoria and Lithgow which has already burnt through almost 60,000 hectares of bush since last week.

Other fires that previously threatened property in the LakeMacquarie area and Southern Highlands have been downgraded to "Advice".

Cooler weather conditions predicted today is said to help the firefighters working on Blue Mountains blaze. Meanwhile, fresh reports emerged after Thursday’s RFS claim that a defence training exercise was the cause of the blaze near Lithgow.

A Fairfax Media reports said that a "well-placed military source" said that it appears the personnel taking part in the exercise had "massively exceeded" the amount of explosive suitable for the Marrangaroo training range, near Lithgow.Acting Chief of Defence Air Marshall Mark Binskin has already apologised over the massive fire. He said the decision to go ahead with the training exercise was made on a day of light winds and 23 degree-temperatures. No fire ban was in place.

The exercise on October 16 involved members of the DefenceExplosiveOrdnanceTraining School based at Orchard Hill.

Image: A Rural Fire Service firefighter tries to extinguish a fire approaching homes near the Blue Mountains suburb of Faulconbridge, located around 80 km west of Sydney.

Photograph: Rick Stevens/Reuters

Natasha Chaku in Melbourne