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Crisis Averted For Now In Australia's Fight Against Fires

Flames flicker near Bilpin, Australia, as a firefighter finishes securing the area on Wednesday.
Rob Griffith
Flames flicker near Bilpin, Australia, as a firefighter finishes securing the area on Wednesday.

"A high-risk gamble by firefighters" has paid off in Australia, says The Sydney Morning Herald.

"But authorities warn that the situation remains dangerous and dynamic," writes Australian Broadcasting, as crews race to protect people and homes from the dozens of wildfires burning across areas surrounding Sydney.

As we reported Tuesday, it's feared that things may only get worse in New South Wales state over the coming months because the region's "fire season" usually peaks in December and January — summer months "down under." Already, at least one death has been attributed to the blazes and a few hundred homes have been destroyed. Sydney has been blanketed in smoke for days.

But Wednesday, at least, there was good news. According to the Morning Herald, five straight days of intentional "back-burning" — blazes deliberately set and controlled by firefighters to rob the wildfires of fuel — meant that the state "escaped one of its most threatening bushfire days on record largely unscathed. ... No homes or lives had been lost by late Wednesday and [Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane] Fitzsimmons praised the efforts of a record contingent of firefighters who had been preparing for the nightmare conditions since the weekend."

There's also word Wednesday that the biggest of the fires was sparked by a live ordnance exercise conducted by the Australian Army. That "State Mine fire ... has terrorised tiny townships between Lithgow and the Blue Mountains for a week," the Morning Herald says.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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