Lower temperatures help ease fires
Firefighters battling dozens of wildfires in Australia's most populous state merged two of the most worrying blazes today to try to reduce the threat of a more unpredictable inferno taking hold.
There had been fears that three of the fires near the Blue Mountains west of Sydney would join to create a massive, erratic wall of flames which would be difficult to control. So firefighters struck first, combining two of the blazes into one that is easier to manage and contain.
Cooler temperatures, calmer winds and a light drizzle were giving thousands of firefighters a reprieve in tackling the blazes today.
The fires have killed one man, destroyed 208 homes and damaged another 122 in New South Wales state since last week, the Rural Fire Service said.
The number of blazes dropped from more than 100 last week to 60 today, with 15 still out of control, fire service spokesman Joel Kursawe said. Blazes which had previously been ranked the highest danger were all downgraded by the fire service.
Nevertheless, officials said the threat has not completely evaporated, as the weather is expected to heat up again tomorrow.
"We cannot afford for complacency or a lull, as welcome as any relief in weather conditions are," Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.