Residents Evacuated As Australian Bushfires Burn Out Of Control

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Authorities evacuated residents from a town in Australia's New South Wales state Wednesday as a bushfire burned out of control amid searing heat, emergency services said.

The temperature hit 44.7 degrees Celsius (112.5 Fahrenheit) inland, but later dropped by almost 10 degrees Celsius (18 Fahrenheit) as thunder storms swept parts of Sydney, knocking down trees and leaving thousands of homes without electricity.

Firefighters deemed the fire, blazing a path near the town of Parkes, a bushfire emergency after an afternoon southerly wind blew the fire out of containment lines. About 30 residents had left the nearby suburb of Alectown and about 20 extra fire trucks were sent to assist local rescue workers, a spokesman for the Rural Fire Service said.

Another flare up between the northern New South Wales towns of Macksville and Kempsey forced the main highway along the state's north coast to shut down, but emergency workers said no property was under threat from the blaze.

The state's weather swung from one extreme to the other Wednesday, beginning with sweltering temperatures and ending with fierce winds and thunder storms.

Most wildfires in Australia start from natural causes like lightning during the hot, dry fire season that starts in November and straddles the Southern Hemisphere summer.

But police have in the past blamed thrill-seeking youths for many of the country's annual bushfires.

A year ago, wildfires swept through the national capital of Canberra, razing 500 homes and killing four people.