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Fed: Fires wreak havoc in Vic, NSW and SA

By Belinda Cranston
08 Feb 2009 12:13 AM

SYDNEY, Feb 7 AAP - Victoria's worst fears were realised on Saturday when fourteen people were killed by bushfires.

Victorian police confirmed the deaths on Saturday night and said they feared the figure could be more than 40.

At least 100 homes were destroyed as nine major blazes burnt out of control across the state.

One man aged in his 40s was in a critical condition after suffering burns to 50 per cent of his body when he tried to move stock in the Colegaine area in the state's west.

More than 3,000 firefighters and many more residents worked to contain fires in all corners of the state, including major fronts at Horsham, Coleraine, Weerite, Kilmore East, Bunyip, Churchill, Dargo, Murrindindi and Redesdale.

Across Australia emergency services workers were out in full force as fires on Saturday also threatened homes in NSW and South Australia, while flash floods wreaked havoc in north Queensland.

In NSW a 31-year-old man was being questioned over a fire police believe was deliberately lit near Peats Ridge, on the Central Coast, which burnt through 120 hectares of land through the Brisbane Water National Park.

About 250 firefighters battled the blaze with five aircraft and more than 20 fire tankers.

At 9pm (AEDT) on Saturday, a Rural Fire Service spokesman told AAP the threat to nearby properties had eased.

"Fire fighters will remain on the ground all night to try to establish some containment lines that will hold in anticipation of tomorrow's weather," he said.

Fire fighters would remain in the area until cooler weather came through, which was expected on Monday.

South of Sydney, several fires burning in the Bega Valley on Saturday night threatened people in the villages of Towamba, Burragate and Wyndham, and villagers were warned by the RFS to prepare for severe fire weather on Sunday.

At Wollemi National Park, in the Singleton area, north of Sydney, the RFS anticipated fires would burn through 2,000 hectares of countryside by Sunday morning.

In South Australia a fire that burnt through 108 hectares at Gawler River, north of Adelaide, was a major concern throughout Saturday.

A spokeswoman from South Australia's Country Fire Service said about 155 fire fighters, assisted by four fixed-wing waterbombing aircraft and helicopters, helped contain the fire.

She said crews would keep mopping up the fire overnight.