Australian wildfires raze homes, hurt firefighter

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) - Scores of wildfires raging across southeast Australia in dry and windy summer conditions have destroyed 20 homes and injured a firefighter, authorities said Monday.

Victoria state Country Fire Authority chief officer Euan Ferguson said 20 homes had been destroyed in the state by blazes that peaked late Sunday. The toll could rise as damage continued to be assessed.

Ferguson said fire conditions had eased since Sunday. The state had faced its worst fire danger late Sunday since 2009, when wildfires killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes in Victoria in little more than a single day.

But country towns north of Melbourne, Australia's second most populous city, continued to be under threat Monday, he said.

Authority duty officer Brett Boatman said underground coal in the Latrobe Valley open cut mine had caught fire. That fire burned more intensely as firefighters dug the coal out to extinguish it, he said.

The authority said that of the 150 wildfires that burned across Australia's second most populous on Sunday, 25 continued to burn out of control Monday.

The only injury reported to date was a firefighter who received medical treatment after being hit by a falling tree on Sunday.

In neighboring New South Wales state, the Rural Fire Service reported 50 fires burning on Sunday, one temporarily closing the Hume Highway, which connects Melbourne with Sydney, Australia's largest city.

There were no immediate reports of homes lost in New South Wales, Australia's most populous state.

Destructive wildfires are a common feature across much of Australia during the summer months.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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