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Australian firefighters race to contain wildfires

Monday, October 21, 2013 - 01:41

Oct. 22 - Australian firefighters work desperately to try and contain a series of massive wildfires, burning in mountains west of Sydney. Sarah Toms reports.

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Thousands of firefighters and hundreds of fire engines battle massive wildfires in mountains west of Sydney. More than 200 homes in the Australian state of New South Wales have been destroyed, communities scattered and entire streets razed by fires tearing through farm and bush land on the outskirts of the city. The fires have burned through more than 120,000 hectares. Around 60 are still burning. Animals and livestock have been moved to safer areas. While exhausted fire fighters take brief breaks after long hours of trying to contain the flames. (SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW SOUTH WALES RURAL FIRE SERVICE COMMISSIONER, SHANE FITZSIMMONS, SAYING: "Already the winds are problematic enough through the Blue Mountains. We've already experienced, associated with this storm cell, 70 kilometre (43 miles) gust of winds, and a little higher. That's about to come across towards the fire ground. That will present challenges in terms of the weather systems, erratic weather systems and erratic weather behaviour at a local level. That then translates to very dangerous, very difficult fire behaviour and fire fighting conditions." Air pollution in parts of Sydney has risen to dangerously high levels as smoke and ash blankets the city. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RESIDENT, MARTIN KREMER SAYING: "That's a Nato gas mask from the 80's. It was used obviously for nuclear warfare but it would do a fine job here in the smoke as well." Fire fighters backburn vegetation to reduce the fuel for the fires, merging them into a single and easier controlled blaze. And it's only likely to get worse..... dry winds and high temperatures in the mid 30 degree Celcius range are predicted for Wednesday.

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Australian firefighters race to contain wildfires

Monday, October 21, 2013 - 01:41