Sydney, Australia, Feb 4 (efe-epa).- Strong winds fanned a 126-kilometer (78-mile) long forest fire that is burning unchecked near the city of Perth in southwestern Australia threatening the homes of residents in adjoining areas, regional authorities warned Thursday.
The fire in Perth Hills, about 100 kilometers northeast of Perth, started on Monday and has burned down 81 homes and destroyed more than 10,000 hectares of land since then.
The strong winds, forecast to have speeds of up to 70 kilometers per hour in the area where the fires are raging, have forced authorities to keep emergency warnings in place due to the “threat to lives and homes,” Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan said.
“These fires are highly unpredictable and things can go bad very quickly. Weather conditions are still volatile, with strong winds forecast,” McGowan said in a press conference in Perth that was broadcast by public broadcaster ABC.
The strong winds, forecast until Saturday, have forced some of the firefighting aircraft to stay on the ground leaving only three large tankers to spray a chemical retardant on the fires, Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said.
From the ground, some 260 firefighters continue to fight the fires that are raging near Perth, Australia’s fourth-largest city, which is expected to have rainfall over the weekend.
This is the first major fire of this year in Australia after the devastating bushfires last summer.
The bushfires, baptized in the country as the “Black Summer” ,began in September 2019 and lasted until March 2020.
The fires killed 38 people, destroyed over 18.6 million hectares of land and more than 3,500 houses, and caused the death, injury or displacement of some 3 billion animals, including koalas.
The fire season in Australia varies by area and weather conditions, although they are generally recorded in the southern summer (between December and March).
The worst fires in the Oceanic country in recent decades occurred in early February 2009 in the state of Victoria, leaving 173 people dead and 414 injured, as well burning an area of 4,500 sq km. EFE-EPA