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October 22, 2013

Australian Firefighters Merge Blazes to Contain Threat

by VOA News

Firefighters in Australia have merged two massive wildfires in an effort to create one easier-to-control blaze ahead of dangerous weather conditions on Wednesday.

Fire crews have worked night and day since last week to contain the dozens of fires burning in New South Wales, Australia's most populous state.

The largest and most dangerous fire is west of Sydney, near the scenic Blue Mountains.

Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the so-called "backburning operations" there are showing positive results.

"We are seeing some positive results of these very deliberate, very targeted, very decisive strategies being deployed, particularly in relation to backburning operations, both tactically and strategically, with the view to retarding the forward advancement of the main fire front, particularly in light of tomorrow's weather conditions," said Fitzsimmons.

Forecasts call for windy and hot conditions on Wednesday, raising fears that the 60 wildfires burning in the state could worsen.

The fires have already killed one man and destroyed more than 200 homes in New South Wales, where a state of emergency has been issued.

The blazes, which have a perimeter of 1,600 kilometers, have been extraordinarily intense and early in an annual fire season that peaks during the southern hemisphere's summer, which begins in December.