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Wildfire Destroys 41 Houses In Western Australia

PERTH, Australia (AP) - A wildfire that tore across the outskirts of an Australian city over the weekend has destroyed at least 41 homes and damaged another 19, authorities said Monday. One firefighter was injured and several people were treated for smoke inhalation.

Firefighters are close to stopping the spread of that wildfire and another that broke out over the weekend in the same area of Western Australia state. The two blazes have razed 4,000 acres (1,600 hectares) of forested land to the north and southeast of Perth since Saturday, Fire and Emergency Services Authority spokesman Alan Gale said.

In Roleystone and the nearby community of Kelmscott, at least 41 houses were destroyed and another 19 damaged, despite the efforts of 200 firefighters, the authority's chief operations officer, Craig Hynes, told reporters. He said the tally could rise as a survey of the scorched area continued.

A firefighter who was injured fighting that blaze, which erupted shortly before noon Sunday, was in stable condition at a hospital, Hynes said. The authority has not released details of how that female firefighter was hurt. Several residents took themselves to hospitals after suffering minor smoke inhalation, Hynes said.

"The pleasing thing is that there's been no serious injuries or fatalities," he said.

Residents who were evacuated from the path of the blaze Sunday have not yet been allowed to return to their homes due to the continuing fire danger, Hynes said.

Further north, in the Swan Valley district, some 150 firefighters using water-bombing helicopters and trucks had contained another fire by early Monday. There was no property lost there, Gale said.

"Conditions are still windy, but nowhere near as bad as yesterday," he said.

About 100 people were told to evacuate their homes as authorities tried to contain that blaze, which started Saturday night and had scorched about 3,000 acres (1,200 hectares) of forest land by Monday.

The Roleystone fire was accidentally started when a man using an electric grinder in his backyard ignited dry grass with sparks, the Fire and Emergency Services Authority said in a statement. The other fire began when a tree branch that was blown down by strong winds hit electrical transmission infrastructure, it said.

The fires in Australia's far west come as huge areas of the east coast recover from a major cyclone that struck in Queensland state last week and from flooding from drenching rains in Queensland and southern Victoria state.

February is the last month of summer in Australia and also marks the height of both the monsoon season in the tropical north and the riskiest period for wildfires.

Survivors of wildfires that ripped across Victoria, killing 173 people and razing 2,000 homes, marked the second anniversary of Australia's worst fire disaster Monday.