Two firefighters die fighting 'horrendous' Australian bushfire
Canberra - Two Australian firefighters were killed while battling to contain an out-of-control bushfire that ripped through their towns some 90 kilometres south-west of Sydney.
The volunteers were in a fire truck travelling in a convoy near the town of Buxton on Thursday night when the vehicle hit a tree and rolled off the road, the New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service (RFS) said.
"This is an absolutely devastating event in what has already been an incredibly difficult day and fire season," the RFS said on Friday.
According to NSW Police, the driver and front passenger died at the scene, while three other firefighters were injured in the accident.
The accident comes just hours after a week-long state of emergency was imposed in NSW. More than 1,700 firefighters were battling 100 bushfires across the state amid record-breaking temperatures.
The 2 firefighters killed in a vehicle accident last night are Deputy Captain Geoffrey Keaton 32yrs & Firefighter Andrew O’Dwyer 36yrs, both from Horsley Park Brigade. Our thoughts are with their family, friends & fellow brigade members. #nswrfs pic.twitter.com/p3Y8zX3hBj— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 19, 2019
According to authorities, some 40 homes were destroyed due to bushfires on Thursday in the area where the firefighters died. The blaze remained at emergency warning level on Friday morning.
Earlier on Thursday, three firefighters were injured with burns after their truck was overrun by a bushfire in the same area. Additionally, two firefighters were treated by paramedics for smoke inhalation.
Fire and Rescue NSW duty commander Kernin Lambert called the blaze "a horrendous fire."
"Around the Balmoral village, we had two fire fronts come together and they merged. We were experiencing firestorm-type conditions," he told Australian broadcaster ABC on Friday.
Lambert said crews faced winds over 100 kilometres per hour with 60-metre-high fire fronts so fierce they sucked the oxygen out of the air.dpa