Sat | Oct 16, 2021

Wildfires threaten Australian capital and southeast towns

Published:Saturday | February 1, 2020 | 4:42 PM
A helicopter drops water on a fire near Bumbalong, south of the Australian capital, Canberra, Saturday, February 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Wildfires burned out of control near Australia’s national capital, Canberra, and across surrounding New South Wales state on Saturday, with endangered residents warned to prepare to evacuate.

The capital region declared a state of emergency on Friday because of a fire that by Saturday covered 35,800 hectares (88,500 acres) of forest and farmland south of Canberra, Australian Capital Territory Emergency Services Agency Commissioner Georgeina Whelan said.

Spot fires were sparked by embers carried on winds up to 6 miles from the fire front, and some of those fires will eventually merge with the main fire, she said.

The fires threaten Canberra’s southern suburbs and the nearby village of Tharwa, which has been cut off by road closures since Saturday morning.

“The fire may pose a threat to lives directly in its path,” Whelan told reporters in Canberra. “Driving is extremely dangerous and potentially deadly.”

The fire was downgraded from emergency level late Saturday to the second level on a three-tier scale of danger due to a fall in temperatures and winds.

But several fires continued to burn at emergency levels in southeast New South Wales.

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