Thursday January 10, 2013
Australia fires approach former bomb range
SYDNEY: Australian emergency crews were battling Thursday to keep an out-of-control wildfire from spreading to a former weapons range littered with unexploded bombs.
The 5,840-hectare (14,430-acre) Deans Gap blaze south of Sydney was burning two kilometres (1.24 miles) from the Tianjara plateau which was used by the Australian Army as a practice bombing range until the mid-1970s.
Fire officials told AFP the fact that the "challenging site" was in the blaze's path was playing into their "firefighting strategy at the moment but at this stage there's no major concerns".
"The good news is that range hasn't been used since the 1970s and there is no fire in that area at this stage," a New South Wales Rural Fire Service spokeswoman told AFP.
"If it was required they'd be looking to put in a firebreak in that area."
She added that "they have actually got time to ensure that, were the wind to change and it head in that direction, that there was a break and it didn't actually impact".
Were the flames to reach the plateau, located in the Morton National Park, it could complicate firefighting efforts, with the unexploded bombs making water-drops impossible.
"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," RFS inspector Brett Loughlin told ABC radio.
"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."
As well as bulldozing containment lines, Loughlin said aircraft were dropping special flame resistant gel on bushland to stop or slow burning were the fires to reach the plateau.
Wildfires fanned by heat and high winds have raged across Australia's southeast this week, scorching more than 350,000 hectares (865,000 acres) of land in the most populous state of New South Wales alone. - AFP