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Firefighters battle against the devastating bushfire in Perth's Hills. Picture: Department of Fire and Emergency Services

Firefighters battle against the devastating bushfire in Perth’s Hills. Picture: Department of Fire and Emergency Services Source: Supplied

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A lady wipes tears from her eyes during a community meeting to advise residents of the fire situation in Perth. Picture: Gett...

A lady wipes tears from her eyes during a community meeting to advise residents of the fire situation in Perth. Picture: Getty Images Source:Getty Images

AN out-of-control grassfire is threatening lives and property in Melbourne’s northeast this afternoon, with the mercury surpassing 40C across much of southeastern Australia.

An emergency warning has been issued for residents of Kangaroo Ground, 26km northeast of Melbourne, with the CFA advising residents to seek shelter, as it is too late to leave.

A Watch and Act warning has been issued for residents of North Warrandyte.

Local residents say traffic across the nearby Warrandyte Bridge is almost at a standstill as residents attempted to flee the area.

Thirty trucks and five aircraft are on the scene, with emergency alerts sent to 3200 mobile phones and 621 landlines in the Kangaroo Ground area.

Earlier this afternoon a grassfire at Sunbury, 40km northwest of Melbourne, came close to houses and crossed the Calder Freeway before being brought under control.

Police and the CFA are investigating the cause of another grassfire at Little River, between Melbourne and Geelong, which burnt 100ha before about 100 firefighters and two aircraft controlled it early this afternoon.

Total fire bans have been declared in most regions of Victoria, with temperatures predicted to reach the mid 40s today and tops of about 40C forecast for the rest of the working week. The government has issued a heat health alert with people being urged to keep cool and look out for the elderly.

A similar heatwave in January 2009 contributed to 370 deaths in Victoria and boosted metropolitan ambulance call-outs by about 50 per cent on the hottest days, according to the Department of Health.

Emergency services will be pushed to the limit due to the heatwave, but in Perth the news was better as a bushfire in the hills outside the city has been brought under control.

As the five-day heatwave in Australia’s southern states enters its second day, Victoria and South Australia are tipped to endure the worst of the conditions, but NSW and Tasmania will also feel the hot air mass spreading from the west.

South Australia’s five-day heatwave is about to get worse with the latest forecast tipping temperatures to go even higher than initial predictions.

It will challenge records dating back more than 70 years, a senior forecaster says.

Adelaide sweltered through 45C today, just one degree short of its all time high of 46.1C set on January 12, 1939.

The heatwave was also forecast to give the city five consecutive days above 40C, making it the city’s third longest hot spell. In 1908 and 2009, Adelaide recorded six days above 40C, but Bureau of Meteorology acting regional director John Nairn said they both came at a time when Australia was gripped by drought.

“It’s a class act in terms of a heatwave, so it does deserve our attention,” Mr Nairn said.

While Adelaide sizzled, the hottest spot in SA on Tuesday was Keith, in the southeast, where the mercury hit 47.2C while at Pallamana, east of Adelaide, it reached 46.3C and at Lameroo and Port Augusta 46.2C.

INFERNO: Homes lost as heatwave moves east

In Western Australia, firefighters appear to have won the battle against the raging Perth hills bushfire, as more than 50 families who already knew their homes had been swept away by Sunday’s fierce firestorm were allowed to return the charred ruins for the first time today.

For hundreds of others however, the extent of the damage is still unknown, as they prepare to return to the cold reality of what authorities are calling the “warm zone”.

Firefighters will continue to mop up, as more hot weather is forecast for Perth this weekend.

The fire is being blamed for the death of one man, 62-year-old Ron Shaw, who collapsed as stood on the roof of his Hovea home to prepare for the arrival of the flames.

He could not be reached by ambulance officers and died at the scene.

One resident tried to get back to their house on Monday afternoon and suffered burns to the hands and feet.

Four people who were feared missing in the blaze were accounted for on Monday.

Power remains out for thousands of hills residents, and is not expected to be restored until the weekend. 150 poles and 6km of power line will need to be restored.

It is believed the cause of the fire was a power pole on private property.

The cost of the damage from the devastating WA Perth Hills bushfire has already been placed at more than $13 million, and is almost certain to rise.

The WA government will donate $1 million to the Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund to help victims.

It will also provide $3000 to those whose homes had been destroyed and $1000 for damaged houses.

Attorney-General George Brandis says the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment will also be provided to eligible residents.

People can claim a payment of $1000 per adult and $400 for each child.

Insurers have declared the fire a catastrophic event.

Meanwhile, police in Adelaide are concerned that an overnight fire at an abandoned house was deliberately lit.

They are treating the Morphett Vale blaze as suspicious and forensic investigators will attempt to determine its cause.

“With total fire bans declared across the state today, this is dangerous and risky behaviour to be engaging in,” a spokesman said.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill has urged all people to take care of those most vulnerable to the heat, including elderly relatives, friends and neighbours.

He says people without air-conditioning at home should consider heading to cooler public facilities such as cinemas, shopping centres and libraries.

Sydney will be spared the worst of the weather, with temperatures in the high 20s in the city and high 30s in the city’s west.

A total fire ban has been declared for southern Tasmania today and parts of the state’s south will reach the mid to high 30s during the next few days.

With AAP


David Kadlubowski / The Arizona Republic via AP

A wildfire in Yarnell, Ariz., in June killed 19 firefighters and destroyed scores of homes.

By Erik Ortiz, Staff Writer, NBC News

Heartbroken homeowners and the families of those killed in June’s deadly Arizona wildfire are joining forces six months later — filing a spate of lawsuits collectively seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages from government and fire officials.

They claim “negligence, carelessness and intentional misconduct” contributed to their losses as the Yarnell Hill fire ravaged more than 8,000 acres and 100 structures over nearly two weeks. Nineteen elite firefighters with the Granite Mountain Hotshots perished when shifting winds trapped them within a wall of flames.

One of the latest claims, filed last week by Nina and Chuck Overmyer, is on behalf of all residents and property owners in Yarnell and surrounding communities affected in Yavapai County, about 100 miles north of Phoenix. The Overmyers are personally claiming $865,000 in property losses, lost income and other fire-related expenses.

“With reasonable professional planning and coordination of available firefighting resources, the firefighting managers could have prevented Yarnell’s obliteration without endangering the surrounding communities and the Granite Mountain Hotshots and other firefighters battling the Yarnell Hill fire,” the claim says.

The Overmyers’ attorney didn’t immediately return a call to NBC News seeking comment.

At least 50 other property-owner claims have been filed totaling more than $184 million in damages,reported The Daily Courier in Prescott. That’s in addition to fourteen families who’ve filed wrongful-death claims seeking more than $300 million.

The plaintiffs have named the city of Prescott, the state of Arizona, Yavapai County and the Yarnell Fire District among the defendants.

Nick Cornelius, an attorney for the Central Yavapai Fire District, said Tuesday that there’s “no basis for a claim” against the district, and declined to comment further because the claims are pending. The city of Prescott has previously said it is not liable and denied other claims, The Associated Press reported.

Rebecca Wilks / Skyline Images

Volunteers put the finishing touches on a new home built Dec. 20, 2013, in Yarnell, Ariz.

The mounting suits, meanwhile, are having an unintended consequence: Arizona lawmakers have halted plans to financially help the families of the Hotshots killed in the fire.

A bill that would have been introduced in next year’s legislative session — providing benefits retroactively to the firefighters, most who served seasonally — is now on hold as the claims need to be settled,according to The Arizona Republic.

“No one is going to abandon firefighters, but the question becomes a matter of need,” state Rep. John Kavanagh, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, told the newspaper. “If they’re able to get adequate compensation through the courts, the issue will be resolved. It’s not a question of will they be taken care of. It’s through what government avenue will that occur.”

Tom Kelly, an attorney representing the families, didn’t return a request for comment, but has previously said the claims are also intended to create dialogue with officials and “ensure that this type of tragedy does not happen again.”

“The families will not be making any public statement during this holiday season and request that their privacy be respected by the media during this difficult time,” Kelly said in a statement.

The firefighters’ families have the leverage of a bombshell report commissioned by the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which found the Hotshots were essentially doomed from the start.

Rebecca Wilks / Skyline Images

Frances Lechner, of theYarnell Hill Recovery Group, shows off a new home completed Dec. 20, 2013, after the fire in Yarnell, Ariz.

There was a lack of key personnel amid the chaos, poor communication and the firefighters should have been extracted from the scene before a known thunderstorm and its winds whipped flames perilously close, according to the findings.

All but one of the Hotshots on duty were killed — the survivor was serving as a lookout at the time.

The Arizona Industrial Commission, which oversees workplace safety, cited state forestry officials and levied a $559,000 fine based on the report. The Arizona State Forestry Division said last week it is requesting a hearing to contest the citation.

An earlier report in September — commissioned by state forestry officials — gave a far different account, finding that there was no negligence or violations of protocol during the response, although radio communication was an issue.

The lawsuits, meanwhile, aren’t the only concerns consuming residents of Yarnell and surrounding communities. Since the fire, there’s been a flurry of activity to rebuild.

Volunteers with the Yarnell Hill Recovery Group have helped to construct 22 homes with another 33 in the works, said spokeswoman Frances Lechner.

A total of $400,000 in donations and aid to the group has been dedicated to those homeowners who are uninsured, while up to $10,000 was set aside for each family who is under-insured.

Faith-based groups, including the Apostolic Christian World Relief, Mennonite Disaster Services and the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, traveled to Yarnell to provide free labor.

On Friday, Lechner and the volunteers held a “house lighting” ceremony for one couple who lost their home in the fire and were anxious to have a permanent place in time for Christmas.

Lechner, who was lucky not to lose her home, said that in a community of 650 people, even one person’s pain is widely felt.

“It’s a whole emotional gamut on a regular basis,” Lechner told NBC News. “But I would say the generosity and the concern people have for one another has far outweighed what we’ve experienced.”

At the house lighting last week of a Yarnell woman who lost everything, the volunteers gathered outside of the twinkling structure they built. Together, they raised their voices to sing, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

Related:

Yarnell Hill fire: Arizona agency didn’t prioritize Hotshots’ safety, officials say

 


Arizona State Forestry is fined $559,000 in the deaths of 19 firefighters who perished battling massive blaze in June

PHOENIX — Arizona forestry officials put the protection of structures and pastureland ahead of firefighter safety during a raging wildfire that killed 19 members of an elite firefighting crew in June, a state health and safety investigation said on Wednesday.

Arizona’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health also found that the Arizona State Forestry Division committed other workplace safety violations in its management of the blaze in and around the tiny town of Yarnell, northwest of Phoenix.

The Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighting team was engulfed by wind-whipped flames on the third day of the lightning-sparked blaze that destroyed scores of homes and charred 8,400 acres. One crew member survived.

“When the employer knew that suppression of extremely active chaparral fuels was ineffective and that wind would push active fire towards non-defensible structures, firefighters working downwind were not promptly removed from exposure to smoke inhalation, burns, and death,” according to the report presented to the Arizona Industrial Commission.

The division proposed penalties of $559,000, and the Arizona Industrial Commission voted unanimously to approve them on Wednesday. The state forestry division said in a statement it had cooperated with the investigation but could not comment further because it had not yet reviewed the report.

The fire marked the greatest loss of life from a U.S. wildfire since 1933, when more than two dozen firefighters were killed battling the Griffith Park fire in Los Angeles.

firefighters_arizona.jpg

The Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighting team
 CBS NEWS

The investigation went on to cite fire managers for failing to carry out “incident complexity analysis” after the blaze escaped the team’s initial attack, and entered an “extremely dangerous” transition to an extended attack on the fire.

The report, which contains the last photos of the Granite Mountain Hotshots before they were killed, added that critical incident management personnel “arrived late or were absent from their assigned positions during the life-threatening transition, thereby increasing the risk of firefighter exposure to smoke inhalation, burns and death.”

The findings differ from conclusions drawn by a multi-agency report that was released in September, which found no evidence of negligence or reckless behavior in the firefighters’ deaths.

Remembering a Granite Mountain Hotshot

At that time CBS News spoke to Julia Ashcraft, whose husband Andrew was killed.

“What this has done is exposed that they are not mitigating risks the way they should,” she said. “There should have been things to mitigate these risks before because this could have been prevented.”

That report, which left many questions about the blaze unanswered, led to the filing of a notice of claim last month on behalf of Marcia McKee, whose 21-year-old son, Grant Quinn McKee, was among the firefighters who died in the fire.

In the claim against the city of Prescott, Yavapai County and the state of Arizona, McKee argued that her “only son died because the people managing the fire did not follow basic safety rules.”

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HERE YOU WILL SEE A PICTORIAL SLIDE SHOW CALLED A “FDNY SPECIAL” IN MEMORY OF THE 19 BRAVE HERO FIRE FIGHTERS, FROM THE PRESCOTT FIRE DEPARTMENT, WHO MADE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE TODAY BY GIVING THIER LIVES WHILE TRYING TO PROTECT PROPERTY AND LIFE IN THE YARNELL HILL FIRE SOUTHWEST OF PHEONIX, ARIZONA. MAY GOD GRANT ETERNAL REST TO THIER SOULS AND BLESS THEIR FAMILIES AND FRIENDS AND DURING THIS VERY DIFFICULT PERIOD! (Posted by THEMAJESTIRIUM1 on youtube 06/30/13)


Nature, human policies led to giant wildfire at Yosemite http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57600383/nature-human-policies-led-to-giant-wildfire-at-yosemite/

All wildfires are so tragically devastating. My heart goes out to everyone. Thanks to all of those aiding in this horrific tragedy.


CBS News Video http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50153697n

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