Dangerous fire warnings across Australia

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538em;”>Snow one week, then bushfires at Katoomba

A cool change helped firefighters in NSW while in West Australia a catastrophic fire danger rating was put in place. South Australia declared total fire bans for Monday, affecting the West Coast and Eastern Eyre Peninsula.

Catastrophic fire danger in parts of WA

Total fire bans are in place in parts of Western Australia’s Gascoyne, Central Wheatbelt and Great Southern regions, following a catastrophic fire danger rating.

Twenty-three shires are subject to the ban, which prohibits people from doing anything that might start a fire including lighting open fires and carrying out work such as grinding or welding.

Those who ignore the total fire ban could be fined up to $25,000 or jailed for 12 months or both.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services is warning that if a fire starts in the affected areas it will be extremely difficult to control.

It said it would take significant firefighting resources and cooler conditions to bring any fire under control.

Cool break for Blue Mountains firefighters 

Fire crews are using cooler conditions in the Blue Mountains to try to contain a bushfire that has destroyed one home and damaged several others.

As tourists packed into Katoomba’s cafes on Sunday, just a charred shell remained of a family home on Cliff Drive on the township’s outskirts, its corrugated metal roofing buckled and blackened.

Surrounding properties were still taped off as Rural Fire Service members extinguished spot fires around the house, which was gutted when erratic winds caused the bushfire to break containment lines on Saturday.

A Rural Fire Service (RFS) member said conditions had calmed down a lot.

“We’re just looking after this one now unless something happens in the afternoon, like the wind changes,” he said.

The fire, which the RFS suspects was deliberately lit, was still burning out of control in the valley below the gutted home but was no longer posing a threat to properties on Sunday.

Fire crews were assessing the area as helicopters dumped water on the thick, smouldering bush.

They will be backed up by Remote Area Firefighting Teams as weather conditions allow.

Their biggest concern was a return of strong gusts, which could push the fire back up the cliff and towards homes.

Saturday’s first big test of the bushfire season came as the Blue Mountains community continued its recovery from blazes that destroyed more than 200 homes in Winmalee and Springwood in October last year.

With bushfire conditions worse than last year, Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill is expecting a tense summer.

“I certainly hope that this is it for the fire season, but I can’t say that it is,” he said.

“I’ve spent too much time speaking to families who’ve lost their homes, spent too much time seeing grief.”

A fund established after last year’s tragedy could help the Katoomba family that lost their home on Saturday, he said.

About 100 people sought shelter in the local RSL as the fire encroached on Saturday, but they were allowed to return home later in the evening.

More than a thousand firefighters were deployed across NSW on Saturday to battle 70 bushfires.

Farming took place before fatal SA fire

South Australia’s Country Fire Service is investigating whether farming operations contributed to a fatal bushfire in the state’s mid-north.

A CFS volunteer, a 38-year-old man who was helping a neighbour contain a fire on his Nantawarra property, suffered severe burns and died on Friday.

CFS chief officer Greg Nettleton says the man was on a private farm fire unit.

He says the full circumstances of the incident were unknown, but police and WorkSafe were investigating.

“It may not have been associated with farming operations but we’ll wait and see,” he told reporters in Adelaide on Saturday.

Mr Nettleton said he thought “lentils were involved”.

“We are aware of a number of fires that have been caused in farming operations where lentils have been harvested,” he said.

Mr Nettleton said the CFS volunteer’s family, which includes a partner and children, had requested privacy.

“Our condolences go out to the family, the immediate and extended family, of the firefighter,” he said.

He said firefighters across Australia would be mourning the loss of the man, who had been an active member of the Mount Templeton CFS brigade for a number of years.

“Right across, the CFS family is in shock and mourning as a result of this,” Mr Nettleton said.

“Firefighters across Australia will be feeling the loss of a colleague.”

Mr Nettleton said the state’s fire season had started earlier this year and there were indications, such as weather forecasts and dry soil, that it would last longer than normal.

Two other people were taken to Balaklava Hospital with minor injuries after the blaze.

The CFS said late on Friday the fire was no longer threatening lives and homes.

Queensland fire crews to use live monitoring

Queensland’s firefighters will be able to monitor live footage from specialist fixed-wing aircraft this bushfire season.

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) will also have access to three extra aircraft that will remain on stand-by west of Dalby, the state government announced on Sunday.

The new technology would mean fire incident commanders no longer had to rely on reports over radio from above, Premier Campbell Newman said.

“Live streaming technology … provides vision from aircraft directly to commanders on the ground on an iPad and in the State Operations Centre, allowing quick action to save life and property,” Mr Newman said.

The rollout of a digital mapping application for iPhones or iPads would allow crews to plan back-burning or operational responses anywhere, Police, Fire and Emergency Services minister Jack Dempsey said.

Meanwhile, firefighters were on Sunday using water bombing aircraft to battle a blaze at Ballandean, near Stanthorpe in southeast Queensland.

The fire was not threatening homes, however the QFES advised residents to take precautionary measures.