Thu, Dec 31, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Wildfires destroy homes in Australia’s west


Fire crews inspect the damage caused by bush fires at the small country town of Toodyay in Western Australia yesterday. The fire that destroyed more than 30 homes has led Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett to declare a natural disaster in the state.


Wildfires roared across a swath of western Australia yesterday, razing almost 40 homes and sending hundreds of people fleeing for their lives, officials and witnesses said. At least three people were injured.

Two major blazes burned out of control overnight after breaking out on Tuesday afternoon in a wheat and sheep farming district north of Perth, forcing the evacuation of the township of Toodyay and threatening a second town, Badgingarra, farther north.

The two fires scorched a total of more than 13,400 hectares of forest and farmland before cooler conditions yesterday helped hundreds of firefighters contain them.

Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett declared a natural disaster and praised authorities who battled the blazes.

“There is no doubt they saved lives last night,” Barnett said yesterday after visiting burned out homes in Toodyay. “If you saw the destruction, houses totally destroyed and people were got to safety by the emergency services.”

The state Fire and Emergency Services Authority said at least 37 houses had been wrecked.

Two firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation and a third was treated for a heat-related illness. Farmers also reported stock being killed.

The extent of the damage was still being assessed, officials said.

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