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Wildfires, aided by hot conditions, rage across southeast Australia

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"If we get through today without loss of life and loss of property, we'll have had a remarkable escape from what could have been," New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell told the Seven Network.

 

Many residents in the town of Tarcutta, 120 miles west of Canberra, took shelter at a community center. Eva Toth, owner of the Tarcutta Halfway Motor Inn, opted instead to hunker down inside the office for a sleepless night next to her motel. She was ready to jump in her car if word came that the flames were close.

"The wind is just unbelievable. It just suddenly comes like a whirly, twirly tornado," she said by telephone. "To live this is really frightening. When you walk into my place, you can smell the smoke even in my house."

One volunteer firefighter suffered severe burns to his hands and face while fighting a grass fire near Gundaroo village, 138 miles southwest of Sydney, on Monday. He was flown to a hospital in Sydney for treatment.

Fitzsimmons, the fire commissioner, said the firefighter's condition had improved Tuesday and he should be released from the hospital in the next few days.

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