People, Environment

Aussies Struggling to Contain Bushfires

Aussies Struggling to Contain BushfiresAussies Struggling to Contain Bushfires

Cooler temperatures gave authorities the upper hand on Monday in fighting the wildfire that has killed two people and razed 143 properties in the major beef and dairy farming areas in the southwest of Western Australia state.

Exhausted fire crews are now in the sixth day of battling the blaze. However, a slight change of conditions has enabled firefighters to contain the fire.

The authorities warn, however, the wildfire, or bushfire as it is commonly known in Australia, is still not controlled, fearing it will take months to be extinguished from smoldering underground peat, Xinuha reported.

“Don’t be mistaken ... whilst we’ve got favorable conditions at the moment, we’re going to have to deal with jumpouts of fires for months ahead,” local Western Australia state politician Murray Cowper told reporters on Monday.

“There’ll be trees that’ll be smoldering for months on end and until we get that winter drizzling rain, this fire won’t be out and we’ll be living with the potential of further outbreaks.”

The blaze has been raging since it was ignited by a lightning strike on Wednesday morning, burning more than 72,000 hectares of land and destroying upwards of 143 buildings, including 128 homes, forcing a state of emergency to be declared.

 Mounting Losses

“Insured losses are now estimated at A$60 million ($42 million) and are continuing to rise. More detailed figures will be released later in the week,” Insurance Council of Australia said in a statement on Monday.

The remains of two men, aged 73 and 77-year-old, were found by the authorities searching burnt out buildings in historic timber mining town of Yarloop on Saturday. Local media is reporting more than 80% of the town has been destroyed by the fire in scenes described as “surreal”.

Four firefighters have been injured in the blaze while reinforcements from New South Wales state are now assisting crews.

Overnight the fire came within two kilometers of the dairy farming town of Harvey, which “dodged a bullet” from the change in conditions and containment work by the authorities.

Dairy producers had been forced to dump thousands of liters of milk following road closures on Thursday that prevented transport tankers from accessing farms while power losses halted operations.

Wildfires are an annual summer event in Australia, however, the authorities have been on high alert since September last year over unseasonably warm temperatures, prompting scientists and climate activists to speculate climate change could be extending and increasing the intensity of the fire season.