Nightly News   |  October 20, 2013

Australia is burning

Wildfires have the nation in a state of emergency. Many of the blazes aren’t contained and the conditions are worsening. Ashlea Brown reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> a state of emergency in effect in australia where 56 wildfires are still burning . a dozen of them out of control near sydney in the state of new south wales and conditions are getting worse. we turn once again to our partner, australia 's seven network, ashley brown is in the town of bell outside sydney .

>> reporter: hello. temperatures are already climbing. the humidity has dropped and the winds have picked up. so these are fierce fire conditions facing the blue mountains . an area that is about an hour and a half drive from sydney . two major fires are burning. we're talking about an active fire front of more than 180 miles. this is a huge task for firefighters. a great deal of back burning is being done but it is really, it hasn't been enough. we're already seeing 200 homes in this area that have been destroyed and many more homes are under threat. the biggest fear is that two major fires will join, creating a mega fire that will just be simply uncontrollable.

>> that is the magnitude. i sincerely hope it is not realized and we end up somewhere in between. what we cannot ignore are the probabilities.

>> reporter: an emergency warning has been issued to the town of bell where i am by the rural fire service . it means residents have been told to leave their homes unless they're prepared to defend them. in saying that, new powers have been given to emergency services which means no matter what decision they have made, they could still be ordered out of their homes.

>> i've been getting a lot of calls from people saying, you know, get home, pack. get out.

>> reporter: water bombers are attack have the fires from the air. hundreds of firefighters are on the ground across the blue mountains . residents are simply on edge and firefighters are exhausted. they're going to give it everything they can to bring those fires under control.

>> ashley brown in australia . thanks.

>>> one more example of the toll these fires have taken. look at this photo showing exhausted firefighters, resting as the fires burn around them. it was taken by a photographer from australia 's newcastle herald . it has been seen by almost 4 million people on facebook. prompting thousands of messages of thanks.