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Sydney officials deem bushfire highly suspicious

By Sheetal Sukhija, Washington State News
16 Apr 2018, 16:37 GMT+10

SYDNEY, Australia - A large bushfire that started in Sydneys southern suburbs on Saturday and burnt through 2,500 hectares of land, is believed to have been deliberately started.

The bushfire threatened homes in Sydney, with some locals being forced to evacuate their homes over the weekend, while others were told it was too dangerous to leave.

Subsequently, residents hosed down their houses and lawns to prevent embers sparking new blazes and major roads separating bushland and residences were cut off in some areas.

Fire services even used helicopters to dump water over key points.

However, on Monday, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) said that the threat has eased and assessed that the fire is likely to have been deliberately lit.

New South Wales RFS said the blaze was "highly suspicious, with Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons saying, "How dare anyone - if they are deliberately involved in lighting fires - endanger our firefighters and also [put] all these communities in harm's way.

The south-eastern part of Australia has been witnessing unseasonably hot weather recently, with strong winds fanning bushfires.

On Monday, authorities said wind speeds were not as severe, making it easier to battle the blaze.

Meanwhile, Fitzsimmons added that the flames travelled "right up to the back fences" of houses, but no properties had been lost.

Adding, "While the threat has eased, it is still a fairly vigilant fire ground and we want people to remain vigilant. There is a lot of work still to be done today and maybe into tonight before we can call the fire contained."

In a statement, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised the emergency response and said, "It is unseasonably hot and that's a matter of obviously great concern, but we have to deal with the worst that Mother Nature can throw at us and the worse Australians are presented with by nature, the better it brings out the Australian spirit.

On Monday, that police declared the fire a crime scene and Fitzsimmons warned of the possibility that winds could strengthen again and elevate the fire danger.

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