In New South Wales, Australia, a state of emergency was declared after a week of bush fires killed two people and destroyed at least 70 homes in the Blue Mountains, about 40 miles (64 kilometres) west of Sydney.
In New South Wales, Australia, a state of emergency was declared after a week of bush fires killed two people and destroyed at least 70 homes in the Blue Mountains, about 40 miles (64 kilometres) west of Sydney. It was not until Saturday (17 December) that firefighters began to win their battle.
SYNOPSIS: The fires raged out of control along a thirty mile front -- fanned by high winds, through areas dried out by lack of rain and recent soaring temperatures.
Dozens of small communities lay in the path of the advancing flames. Every available fire fighting team, about five hundred men, backed by hundreds of soldiers and volunteers were brought into the area. They spent more than a week battling two major outbreaks and hundreds of smaller fires.
The main road link with Sydney was closed except for emergency vehicles. At one time, fire service officials said New South Wales faced its worst threat from bush fires for ten years. The State Premier who toured the area said it looked as if it had been "hit by an atomic bomb".
For the houses that lay directly in the path of the blaze, there was little hope of saving anything. Of the two people reported dead, one was a girl who was trapped in her burning home. The other was a man who died of a heart attack while trying to move some of his property away from the flames. A preliminary estimate put the cost of the destroyed housing at 1.5 million Australian dollars (1.7 million U.S. dollars). Already, State and Federal Government aid has been promised to those who suffered losses.
At the height of the fire, it was thought that it might spread to Sydney itself, but by Saturday (17 December) the major outbreaks were gradually being brought under control, and the threat to other communities had passed.