Volunteer firefighters rest at the RFS station, as bushfires continue, in Shannons Flat, Australia, on Saturday. Reuters
Fearing the worst from approaching bushfires, most of the roughly 230 people living in the village of Towamba in Australia's southeast left.
But the fire has spared the village and some nearby, located about 540km (336 miles) by road from Sydney. At least for now.
A RFS heavy plant contractor rests on a decommissioned fire hose at the RFS station in Shannons Flat. Reuters
The few who stayed behind in Towamba to fight spot flames and stop embers from setting their homes alight gathered on Saturday in the village hall, where supplies had been prepared and someone's vintage 1932 Chevrolet parked for safety.
"The authorities have been working overtime to put down a containment area and they were here last night ready to defend us, but there wasn't a lot of fire really," said Ian Lindsey, 64, as he sipped a cup of coffee.
"Anyone who needed to had retreated. I'm not surprised, last weekend was intense."
A burnt car is seen among the charred trees in Lithgow, in Australia's New South Wales. Saeed Khan/AFP
After weeks of unpredictable fires claiming 27 lives, thousands of homes and more than 10.3 million hectares (25.5 million acres) of land, Australia got a reprieve with cooler temperatures and rainfall.
But the air in Towamba, were the military was clearing felled, fire-damaged trees, was still stinging hot, dry and the sky filled with a thick haze. The only passable route in the village was rocky at places and still under construction.
Paul Kranhold, a 52-year-old tiler, said last week's approaching fires had sounded like planes duelling in the sky. Nonetheless, he stayed to fend for his house.
Thick fog mixed with bushfire smoke fills the sky in the Ruined Castle area of the Blue Mountains on Saturday. AFP
"It was pretty nerve-wracking last night as that wind changed," he said, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette.
"I've got a four-bedroom house so I thought if I can save that, then I can take in those people whose homes are gone. They can come stay here because there's nowhere for many of them to go."
With the Australian bush burning for nearly three months now, killing 28 people, claiming 2,000 homes and raging across millions of acres of land and wildlife, the crisis is becoming increasingly political.
Roads were closed and the authorities told people to leave or stay away from suburbs east of Canberra, as photos posted on social media showed grey smoke billowing above the city's suburbs. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
Winter, her son Riley, and a cousin had been monitoring the bushfires near the town about 250km (156 miles) south of Sydney when they decided to evacuate on New Year's Eve.
The fire, dubbed the Apple Fire by local firefighters — who routinely give blazes identifying names — was reported Friday in Cherry Valley, a community about 75 miles east of Los Angeles and had destroyed at least one family home as of Saturday evening.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Thursday of the 998 children still separated, 148 were in the process of reunification.
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