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Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2006, 08:42 GMT
Australian wildfires claim life
Firefighter in Victoria state on 12 December 2006
Some 4,000 firefighters have been tackling blazes in Victoria alone
A volunteer firefighter has died and at least 20 homes have been destroyed as bush fires raged in southern Australia.

Donald Dosser, 48, died after falling from a moving truck as he fought flames that destroyed 16 houses in his neighbourhood in Victoria state.

The fire was believed to have been deliberately started and two teenagers are being sought.

In the island state of Tasmania, four homes were destroyed in the coastal resort of Four Mile Creek.

Residents fled to the beach to escape what was described as a "large fireball".

Firefighters are battling to save the small town, which has been completely cut off with fires burning right up to the sea, cutting off evacuation routes.

Cooler weather in the coming days is expected to ease the strain on the thousands of firefighters tackling the wildfires.

Urgent appeal

Premier of Victoria state, Steve Bracks, described the work of alleged arsonists in the Gippsland region as "reprehensible" and warned of hefty sentences for those who were caught.

"I can say the full force of the law will be brought to bear and there'll be a proper investigation by police," he warned.

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The fire not only destroyed 16 homes but also claimed the life of Mr Dosser, who had been fighting a blaze near his home in Longford when he fell from a trailer and was hit by another truck behind.

Police launched an urgent appeal to find two teenagers who were seen near the source of the blaze.

Some 4,000 firefighters have been tackling at least a dozen wildfires, which have scorched vast areas of Victoria in south-east Australia recent days.

Firefighters have also been tackling blazes in the neighbouring state of New South Wales.

Fire officers say they hope the coming days of cooler weather will give them time to build containment lines around the blazes.

"But there is a lot of work to be done as it will get hotter and more dangerous next week," said Stuart Ord, Department of Sustainability and Environment (DES) spokesman.

Bushfires are common in Australia's summer, but officials say the situation is even worse than normal this year, because of a long-standing drought.

Many fires are caused by lightning, while others are started deliberately.




SEE ALSO
Tasmanian town cut off by fires
14 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Canberra aid for bushfire victims
13 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Homes hit by Australia bush fires
12 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Winds fan Australian bush fires
10 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Smoke blankets Australian state
09 Dec 06 |  Asia-Pacific

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