Australia battles wildfires as threat eases: Officials



Australia battles wildfires as threat eases: Officials Rylstone: Australian firefighters battled to contain scores of blazes in the country's southeast on Monday as a sharp drop in temperatures eased fears for dozens of threatened homes.

About 600 firefighters backed by water-bombing aircraft were fighting 82 fires around New South Wales state, including a major inferno near the country villages of Rylstone and Kandos.

Temperatures plunged to about 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit) from sweltering weekend conditions of 40 degrees Celsius, bringing relief to firefighters and residents who had been urged to flee their homes.

"There are no homes under direct threat today," a Rural Fire Services spokesman said. "Crews are working to backburn containment lines and contain those fires.”

"The cooler weather is obviously a major advantage for us but we're remaining vigilant."

A bushfire emergency warning, the highest level of alert, was issued in the area about 170 kilometres (105 miles) northwest of Sydney on Sunday as the fire consumed 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) of bush and broke containment lines.

One cottage and around a dozen cattle were lost and officials also evacuated the hospital at Rylstone, gateway to the World Heritage-listed Wollemi National Park, as a precaution.

Southern Australia has been hit by record heatwaves in recent weeks, prompting the first "catastrophic" fire warnings -- a new category introduced after February's disastrous Black Saturday wildfires, which left 173 dead.

Bureau Report