Bushfires claim first life

Fierce blazes threatened townships in New South Wales and cut a swathe through national park in Victoria to the south, while in South Australia high temperatures and winds fuelled more than 60 bushfires sparked by lightning storms.

But it was a smaller bushfire at Nelligen, near Bateman’s Bay on the south coast of New South Wales that claimed this bushfire season’s first life.

“The cause of death is yet to be established but it looks like he has been overcome by the smoke and flames,” a police spokesman said after firefighters found a body near a fenceline on a rural property about 3pm.

Blue Mountains burn

Most of the devastation in New South Wales centred on the state’s scenic Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, where around 400 firefighters and 18 water-bombing aircraft battled blazes that had so far burnt out more than 8,000 hectares of national park.

Firefighters had feared strengthening overnight winds would fan two major blazes near Blackheath, with the townships of Mt Tomah and Mt Wilson under threat.

An RFS spokesman says crews are working on a 35km but the bigger fire had now broken its eastern containment lines.

He said crews were prepared for the “tricky” conditions expected early today, with wind gusts expected to pick up as the day gets warmer.

Waterbombing aircraft cannot take off until first light but no property is currently under direct threat.

Meanwhile, a new bushfire burning in the Wiseman’s Ferry area is not posing any immediate threat to the village of St Albans, 90km north-west of Sydney.

A total fire ban has been declared for much of the state today, including the Greater Sydney and Greater Hunter areas, the
Illawarra and far south coast, southern and central ranges, the upper and lower central west plains and the eastern Riverina.

Victorian fire fighters toil on

In Victoria, soaring temperatures fuelled a blaze sparked by lightning, which laid waste to more than 9,000 hectares of the state’s Little Desert National Park. Elsewhere in the state, flames destroyed a farm and livestock.

Meanwhile much of Melbourne remains blanketed in smoke from a big grassfire at Waubra, near Ballarat.

One-hundred-and-twenty fire fighters were battling the blaze which was sparked by lightning on Monday afternoon.

Meanwhile in South Australia, a wind change and plunging temperatures came to the aid of 3,000 fire fighters battling more than 60 bushfires sparked after a rash of lightning storms swept through the state.