Bushfire threatens Northcliffe in Western Australia

Hundreds of firefighters in Western Australia are battling to stop an out-of-control bushfire reaching a town. An emergency alert is in place for Northcliffe in the south-west of the state and most residents have been evacuated.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has offered government support to help tackle the fires and the army has been called in to put up temporary accommodation for firefighters.

The 80,000-hectare fire has quadrupled in size since Tuesday and stretches from the coast to the South Western Highway in a band south of the town of Northcliffe.

Firefighters were taking advantage of cooler conditions on Thursday morning to strengthen containment lines around the fire to protect Northcliffe, 350km south of Perth, ahead of a predicted south-westerly wind change on Thursday afternoon.

Northcliffe has been on emergency alert for several days after the fire, which has a perimeter of 220km, cut off two of its four access roads. Manjimup shire president Wade de Campo said he received a call from the prime minister on Wednesday night offering his thoughts for those fighting the fire. Western Australia’s Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis said the fire threatening Northcliffe was “the biggest in decades” in the state. “Even if we get lucky with the weather, this is a fire that is going to take days and days – if not weeks – to finally extinguish and get under control,” he said, quoted by the West Australian. The bushfire has a perimeter of 220km (137 miles) and has been burning for six days. Reports said some properties on the edge of the town had already been lost to the flames. It is feared that if the fire eventually engulfs Northcliffe it will then threaten the larger town of Pemberton. Resources are being stretched by the fire near Boddington, which has reportedly jumped containment lines and is putting homes under threat. Patients at Boddington hospital have been relocated and smoke and ash is said to be falling on the nearby town of Collie. The blaze is believed to have been sparked by a lightning strike last Saturday.  

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