Feb 13, 12:53 AM EST

Homes destroyed in fierce Australian wildfires


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SYDNEY (AP) -- Several homes were destroyed and two firefighters injured by huge wildfires that tore across Australia's most populous state over the weekend, officials said Monday.

Scorching temperatures and fierce winds fanned the flames across a wide swathe of New South Wales on Saturday and Sunday. More than 2,500 firefighters fought nearly 100 fires as temperatures climbed to 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of the state. One fire alone burned through 50,000 hectares (124,000 acres).

No one was killed, though two firefighters were hospitalized with injuries, said New South Wales Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. One firefighter suffered burns to the hands and face, while the other had a laceration to the hand.

The full extent of property damage was still unknown on Monday, but an initial assessment showed that at least 19 homes were destroyed, the fire service said.

Cooler weather on Monday had reduced the fire threat to much of the state, though temperatures were expected to begin rising again later in the week.

Destructive wildfires are common across Australia during the southern hemisphere summer. In 2009, wildfires killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes in little more than a day in Victoria state.

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