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Wildfires rage in Australia

Wildfires raged in western Australia Sunday
Wildfires raged in western Australia Sunday

Alexandra Pope, staff writer

February 6, 2011 — Hot summer winds help fan fires in western Australia.

First floods, now flames.

Wildfires tore through the outskirts of the western Australian city of Perth Sunday, destroying at least 35 homes.

Officials from the Fire and Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia (FESA) warned people in the area to leave their homes as the fire continued to burn out of control Sunday evening. Police also closed roads, preventing people who weren't home when the fire broke out from returning to their houses.

The fire started in a forested area shortly before noon on Sunday and within 12 hours had burnt almost 1,000 acres.

Another fire continued to burn out of control north of Perth Sunday night. That fire started on Saturday evening and had spread over 2,000 acres of forest by Sunday.

It's not yet know what started the fires, but steady, hot winds hindered efforts to control their spread. More than 150 firefighters were working around the clock to extinguish the fires, FESA said in a news release.

The fires came as people in Victoria state prepared to mark the anniversary of “Black Saturday”. On February 7, 2009, as many as 400 individual fires were burning across Victoria state, resulting in Australia's highest-ever loss of life from wildfires. 173 people died and 414 were injured.

Thick smoke blanketed a wide area
Thick smoke blanketed a wide area

This summer has been a deadly one in Australia. First, heavy rains caused widespread flooding in Victoria and Queensland states in December and January.

Then, Cyclone Yasi tore through coastal Queensland, demolishing homes and setting restoration efforts on the ecologically sensitive Great Barrier Reef back 10 years.

A heatwave continues in Sydney, and more flash flooding was reported in Victoria state Sunday as severe thunderstorms that cropped up in the wake of Yasi dropped more than 170 mm of rain on the area over two days.

With files from the Associated Press.

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