Family flees fires in fear of unknown

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 23/10/2013

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An ex-Southland man and his family have been forced to evacuate their home in the Blue Mountains near Sydney as relentless bushfires head their way.

Sixty-two fires were still burning across New South Wales yesterday with 13 not contained.

Emergency warnings have been issued for residents of several Blue Mountains townships.

Southlander David Turner, his Australian partner Libby Wyles and their two young children Ben, 6, and Polly, 3, are renting a house in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. Authorities have warned hot weather and strong winds could fan the flames towards the populated community.

Atrocious weather conditions, including wind gusts of up to 100kmh, are expected to hit the area today.

Yesterday, Ms Wyles said from the Blue Mountains the family was leaving to stay with relatives in Sydney.

"We've heard the weather conditions could drive the fire towards us in coming days. We don't want to be here if that happens."

The fires had not been visible from Katoomba since they started last week but when the family woke up yesterday morning there were signs the fires were heading their way, Ms Wyles said.

"We live on the edge of a valley and today we smelt and saw smoke for the first time," she said.

Some Katoomba residents had already left for Sydney and many others were preparing to leave, she said.

"No-one wants to be trapped in here if the fires block the roads out."

The situation was surreal and had everyone on edge, she said.

"It's the unknown that is the worst."

If the family was forced to flee the fires, Ms Wyles said she was not sure if they would return, despite loving the area.

"If it is devastating and there is a chance of it happening again I don't think I would like to come back," she said.

Deciding what to load in the car had proved difficult, Ms Wyles said.

"What can you take? What can't be replaced?"

Southern Rural Fire Authority principal rural fire officer Mike Grant said the organisation had volunteer firefighters ready to head to Australia if the call came. But no official request had been made at this stage.

In February, southern firefighters were deployed to help Australian firefighters battle bushfires in Victoria.

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- The Southland Times

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