Bushfire threatens Northcliffe in Western Australia

Bushfire at Northcliffe, Western Australia. Feb 2015 Image copyright WA Dept of Fire and Emergency Services
Image caption The fires around Northcliffe, Western Australia, are proving difficult to control

Hundreds of firefighters in Western Australia are battling to stop an out-of-control bushfire reaching a town.

An emergency alert is in place for Northcliffe in the south-west of the state and most residents have been evacuated.

Another huge bushfire is raging further north at Boddington, 120km (74 miles) south-east of Perth.

Wind and dry weather have helped the flames to spread and satellite images show palls of smoke over the region.

Western Australia's Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis said the fire threatening Northcliffe was "the biggest in decades" in the state.

"Even if we get lucky with the weather, this is a fire that is going to take days and days - if not weeks - to finally extinguish and get under control," he said, quoted by the West Australian.

The bushfire has a perimeter of 220km (137 miles) and has been burning for six days.

Image copyright WA Dept of Fire and Emergency Services
Image caption Homes around Northcliffe are under threat and most residents have left
Image copyright WA Dept of Fire and Emergency Services
Image caption Extra firefighters are being brought in to try to tackle the bushfires

Reports said some properties on the edge of the town had already been lost to the flames.

It is feared that if the fire eventually engulfs Northcliffe it will then threaten the larger town of Pemberton.

Resources are being stretched by the fire near Boddington, which has reportedly jumped containment lines and is putting homes under threat.

Patients at Boddington hospital have been relocated and smoke and ash is said to be falling on the nearby town of Collie.

The blaze is believed to have been sparked by a lightning strike last Saturday.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has offered government support to help tackle the fires and the army has been called in to put up temporary accommodation for firefighters.

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