Bushfires have been raging in Australia for the last three days, destroying homes and causing mass evacuations across the southern region of the continental island nation.The fires are a seasonal danger in the land down under, but some say this is the worst bushfire in over 30 years. A cooler air front moved in Sunday morning, local time, easing suppression efforts by firefighters somewhat, although officials say it is not yet time to relax as it could take several days to fully contain and control the bushfires.
The bushfires first ignited on Friday in the Adelaide Hills region of Australia on the property of a tenant who had recently moved in. Some speculate that an incinerator was to blame. However, the anonymous resident denies ever having used the incinerator, explaining that the fire started near a shed among the overgrown vegetation that came with the property before he took over. He is very distressed about the loss of so many people’s homes. 320 bushfires are also burning Victoria state just east of South Australia.
South Australia saw the bushfires grow from 400 acres to 12,000 acres overnight by Saturday with eight of the approximately 2,000 firefighters enduring minor injuries such as smoke inhalation. As the fires raged on, the fire crews carried out more than 12 water dumps over the burning areas but expect full containment to take several days.
The bushfires have consumed at least 12 homes and one kennel with estimates of an additional 20 homes suspected ruined. Extreme heat and hot wind stirred up the raging flames and kept them burning over the weekend, resulting in 22 human injuries, including smoke inhalation, none serious, according to Jay Weatherill, a state Premier. Animal lovers and pet owners are grieving the loss of many furry friends, however, who could not be rescued. Some 19 Australian towns have been evacuated, sending homeowners scrambling for safety. Reports indicate that two primary schools may be casualties of the wildfires as well. The iconic Big Rocking Horse at the Toy Factory in Gumeracha seems to be unharmed.
The cooler air and rain in some areas on Sunday motivated authorities to downgrade the fire threat level. Firefighters began to clear the roads and consider letting some residents return to their homes. However, Weatherill emphasized that it would not happen until they are certain the homes are safely out of danger. Much of the risk comes from falling trees and power lines on the access roads for the homes.
Weatherill reiterated that the situation is still “extremely dangerous” so that any sense of relief about the cooler weather and rain is premature. Additional fire crews are on their way from New South Wales carrying 100 relief firefighters and trucks to join the 500 strong firefighting force and more than doubling the equipment resources including 14 smoke jumper planes. The smoke obscures the location of the raging fire making it difficult to pinpoint in the Australian landscape and position the crews and equipment for more effective firefighting. Nevertheless, the extra personnel will be a welcome easement for exhausted crews who have a long battle ahead to subdue the bushfires for another year of safety for Australia’s citizens.
By Tamara Christine Van Hooser
Image courtesy of Mark Roy – Flickr License