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Posted February 7, 2011 EST

Wildfire Destroys 41 Houses In Western Australia
Australia - Firefighters battled two wildfires in Western Australia on Monday, water bombing them from above as they tried to stop their spread. One on the outskirts of Perth destroyed at least 40 homes and left a firefighter injured, authorities said. The two blazes have razed 4,000 acres (1,600 hectares) of forested land to the north and southeast of Perth since Saturday, Fire and Emergency Services Authority spokesman Alan Gale said. Several people were treated for smoke inhalation.

One fire in Swan Valley has largely been brought under control, but another in the communities of Roleystone and Kelmscott remained unpredictable in pockets, according to the authority.

In Roleystone and Kelmscott, at least 41 houses were destroyed and another 19 damaged, despite water-bombing by 200 firefighters, the authority's chief operations officer, Craig Hynes, told reporters. He said the tally could rise as a survey of the scorched area continued.

A firefighter who was injured fighting that blaze, which erupted shortly before noon Sunday, was in stable condition at a hospital, Hynes said. Several residents took themselves to hospitals for smoke inhalation, Hynes said.

"The pleasing thing is that there's been no serious injuries or fatalities," he said.

Residents who were evacuated from the path of the blaze Sunday have not yet been allowed to return to their homes due to the continuing fire danger, Hynes said.

Instead they met in a nearby town on Monday to learn the fate of their homes. Authorities listed addresses and read out damage reports, sometimes breaking the news of "100 percent" destruction to properties.

Farther north, in the Swan Valley district, some 150 firefighters using water-bombing helicopters and trucks had contained another fire by early Monday. There was no property lost there, Gale said.

"Conditions are still windy, but nowhere near as bad as yesterday," he said.

About 100 people were told to evacuate their homes as authorities tried to contain that blaze, which started Saturday night and had scorched about 3,000 acres (1,200 hectares) of forest land by Monday.

The Roleystone fire was accidentally started when a man using a power tool in his backyard ignited dry grass with sparks, the Fire and Emergency Services Authority said in a statement. The other fire began when a tree branch that was blown down by strong winds hit electrical transmission infrastructure, it said.

The fires in Australia's far west come as huge areas of the east coast recover from a major cyclone that struck in Queensland state last week and from flooding from drenching rains in Queensland and southern Victoria state.

February is the last month of summer in Australia and also marks the height of both the monsoon season in the tropical north and the riskiest period for wildfires.

Survivors of wildfires that ripped across Victoria, killing 173 people and razing 2,000 homes, marked the second anniversary of Australia's worst fire disaster Monday.

Written by Associated Press

Courtesy of YellowBrix
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