Bush Fires Fan across New South Wales in Australia

Article excerpt

MORE than 90 fires, fanned by high winds and furnace-hot heat, are burning out of control all over the Australian state of New South Wales.

With more than 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) burned, the entire state has been placed under a total and indefinite fire ban. Firefighters have stopped trying to contain the blazes and are focusing on saving homes. Up to press time, property damage has been minimal, but thousands of residents are being evacuated from communities south of Sydney.

"These fires are unparalleled in living history," said NSW Premier John Fahey while on vacation.

As many as 5,000 mostly volunteer firefighters have been battling blazes since Tuesday and an additional 5,000 were added yesterday. Three people, including two firefighters, have died in the blazes. Relief crews are being brought in from other states. Two hundred federal troops are on standby. Every commercial helicopter in the state and two Navy helicopters are also being used to help fight the fires.

Families traditionally flock to the coast and to the Hawkesbury River in January to beat the summer heat. …