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Australian bushfires destroys almost 40 homes

Wed, 12/30/2009 - 6:30am
Reuters

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A major bushfire in the west Australian outback has destroyed almost 40 homes, officials said on Wednesday, as firefighters end a third month of fighting bushfires across the country.

World  |  Green Business

Fire officials say the Australian summer could be one of the worst bushfire seasons, with a series of catastrophic warnings already issued for big fires in at least three states.

Australia's most deadly bushfires occurred last February, when the "Black Saturday" infernos killed 173 people and destroyed thousands of homes in the southern Victoria state.

As a result of the "Black Saturday" fires, officials adopted a "catastrophic" warning which advises residents to evacuate homes in the face of major bushfires.

Until the west Australian fire this week, property losses had been few. No one has died in the fires this summer.

Three firefighters and a woman from the wheat-belt town of Toodyay, in Western Australian state, suffered minor injuries in the latest bushfire, which burned 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres).

"It's a devastating fire with great destruction," Western Australian state Premier Colin Barnett told reporters.

Bushfires are a natural phenomenon in Australia, due to its hot, dry environment. Lightning strikes over dry land are the most common cause, followed by human intervention such as fires that get out of control.

Australia's bushfire danger period is from October to March, covering the end of spring, all of summer and the start of autumn, when temperatures are highest and humidity lowest.

A decade-long drought and hot, dry interior outback winds have left much of Australia a tinderbox.

(Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

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