Australian firefighters battling wildfires

A firefighter is almost surrounded by red hot flames as he protects a property affected by the Dean’s Gully fire near the town of Wandandian south of Nowra, New South Wales, Australia, January 8, 2013.

Firefighters in southeast Australia are battling to contain wildfires near a former bombing range, where unexploded bombs are scattered.

A massive blaze near Wandandian, south of Sydney, is one of about a hundred fires burning in the state, razing through at least 300,000 hectares of land.

The Dean’s Gap bushfire in New South Wales is just a few kilometers from the Tianjara plateau, which was used by the Australian Army as a practice bombing range until the mid-1970s.

“We can’t do any water-bombing with aircraft or something like that in case the weight of the water when it hits the ground sets off any unexploded ordnance,” Brett Loughlin, from the Rural Fire Service (RFS), said.

“So it’s a total no-fly zone and that will mean [if] the fire gets into that area, there’s nothing we can do for it except wait for it on the other side.”

Fire fighters are using a special gel and are bulldozing containment lines to prevent the fire from entering the military range.

High winds and record temperatures have made the task of containing the fire more difficult.

Meanwhile, firefighters in the state of Victoria are trying to control a fire also caused by Australia’s heat wave.

Teams in Tasmania are also fighting a blaze as the fire caused damage to many homes in the island over the weekend.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard warned the residents in the affected areas and other regions to remain vigilant over the next few days.

“It is very important that people keep themselves safe, that they listen to local authorities and local warnings. This is a very dangerous day,” she said.

YH/HJL