Posts Tagged ‘firefighters’

Sydney bushfire deemed ‘highly suspicious’ as threat eases

April 16, 2018

A large bushfire that has threatened homes in Sydney is likely to have been deliberately lit, Australian authorities say.

BBC News

Helicopters water bomb a bush fire at Alfords Point and Menai. Picture by Damian Shaw

Helicopters water bomb a bush fire at Alfords Point and Menai. Picture by Damian ShawSource:News Corp Australia

A large bushfire that has threatened homes in Sydney is likely to have been deliberately lit, Australian authorities say.

The blaze, which began on Saturday, has burnt through 2,500 hectares of land in the city’s southern suburbs.

Some residents had been warned of immediate danger to their lives, but firefighters say the threat has eased.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) described the blaze as “highly suspicious”.

“How dare anyone – if they are deliberately involved in lighting fires – endanger our firefighters and also [put] all these communities in harm’s way,” said Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

The bushfire forced some locals to evacuate their homes on the weekend, while others were told it was too dangerous to leave.

Recent weather in south-eastern Australia has been unseasonably hot, with strong winds fanning bushfires.

Firefighters use helicopters to dump water on the blazeImage copyrightEPA
Image captionFirefighters use helicopters to dump water on the blaze

Authorities said wind speeds were not as severe on Monday, making it easier to battle the blaze.

Mr Fitzsimmons said flames travelled “right up to the back fences” of houses, but no properties had been lost.

“While the threat has eased, it is still a fairly vigilant fire ground and we want people to remain vigilant,” he said.

“There is a lot of work still to be done today and maybe into tonight before we can call the fire contained.”

Police have declared the fire a crime scene.

Mr Fitzsimmons said it was possible that winds could strengthen again and elevate the fire danger.

On the weekend, residents hosed down their houses and lawns to prevent embers sparking new blazes ahead of the advancing fire front.

The fire seen from a football match in Barden Ridge, one of the affected suburbsImage copyrightDYLAN LONG
Image captionSmoke seen from a football field in the suburb of Barden Ridge

Major roads separating bushland and residences were cut off in some areas, and fire services used helicopters to dump water over key points.

Pictures on social media showed firefighters and residents taking care of local wildlife affected by the blaze.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has praised the emergency response.

“It is unseasonably hot and that’s a matter of obviously great concern, but we have to deal with the worst that Mother Nature can throw at us and the worse Australians are presented with by nature, the better it brings out the Australian spirit,” he said.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-43779186

See also:

Southwestern Sydney residents warned to take shelter as bushfire upgraded to emergency

http://www.news.com.au/national/nsw-act/southwest-sydney-grassfire-flames-within-reach-of-homes-20m-from-trains/news-story/bd9456811238d370d009d43fc07e9dc4

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Trump Tower blaze — One dead, 4 firefighters hurt

April 8, 2018

New York Post

Image may contain: skyscraper and sky

Flames erupted at Trump Tower early Saturday evening, killing one resident of the luxury Midtown building, officials said.

The four-alarm blaze broke out on the 50th floor of the Fifth Avenue building at about 5:30 p.m., ­according to the FDNY.

President Trump tweeted at 6:42 p.m. that the fire was under control — and he used the occasion to boast about the building’s construction.

“The fire at Trump Tower at  is out. Very confined (well built building),” the president said. “Firemen (and women) did a great job. THANK YOU!”

The FDNY said the blaze actually was brought ­under control at 7:40 p.m.

Nearly 200 firefighters and 50 members of the FDNY’s Emergency Medical Service responded, officials said.

First responders performed CPR on resident Todd Brassner, 67, before he was rushed to Mount Sinai West Hospital, where he died.

There are no sprinklers in residential sections of the 58-story building, but they’re not required by law in structures of that age. Trump Tower opened in 1983.

“This is a very difficult fire as you can imagine,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

“The apartment [where the blaze broke out] is quite large — we are 50 stories up — the rest of the building had a considerable amount of smoke.”

Nigro praised his firefighters.

“The apartment was virtually entirely on fire,” he said. “They pushed in heroically. They were knocking down the fire. They found one occupant of the apartment on the 50th floor.”

Lalitha Mason, a 36th-floor resident, said she was “terrified.”

“It was a very horrible experience . . . there was no evacuation system in place . . . we were at a loss of what to do. I almost fainted. I thought we would die,” she said.

“My husband is disabled and we were helpless. All we could do is put wet towels under the door and pray.”

Elevator service was knocked out, so resident Claudia Ospina, a Telemundo reporter, walked down 37 floors with her 19-month-old twins.

“We were afraid because I didn’t hear any alarm; I didn’t receive a call,” Ospina said.

She learned there was trouble only when she looked out her window.

“When I saw [firetrucks] I thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is the worst,’” Ospina said.

Four firefighters were hurt — two with burns. None sustained serious injuries, authorities said.

Additional reporting by Amanda Woods, Daniel McKnight and David K. Li

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AP
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Returning winds churn up heightened alert in fire-hit California — “We are not dropping our vigilance.”

December 20, 2017

 

Above, firefighters light backfires as they try to contain the Thomas wildfire in Ojai, California — considered the second largest fire to hit the state since 1932. (AFP)

LOS ANGELES: After a couple of days of respite heavy winds are expected to return Wednesday to the California area plagued by a massive fire, potentially hindering the efforts of firefighters battling in an already dry climate.

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The fire has already destroyed at least 272,000 acres (110,000 hectares) — nearly the size of the city of Los Angeles — and is just 55 percent contained since it began December 4, according to the state’s fire authority Cal Fire.
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The so-called Thomas fire is considered the second largest fire to hit the state since 1932.
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The National Weather Service issued a red alert from Wednesday evening into Thursday morning for “gusty winds and low relative humidity” in the affected area of Santa Barbara County.
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Firefighters took advantage of weaker winds on Monday and Tuesday to battle the voracious blaze, which has already destroyed more than 1,300 structures.
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Cal Fire pointed to the well-off city of Montecito as its area of greatest concern, after the fire on Saturday rained ash on the dry hills and million-dollar mansions of the area.
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Mark Brown, the Cal Fire operations section chief, said Tuesday was “a very productive day” but emphasized “we are not dropping our vigilance.”
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“There’s still risk out there,” he said, noting the forecast winds.
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Only one fire has burned more California land than Thomas: the Cedar Fire of 2003, which swallowed some 273,244 acres.
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Deadly California wildfire continues to grow — endangering thousands of homes

December 16, 2017

Flames from a backfiring operation rise behind a home in Santa Barbara. The so-called Thomas Fire, the fourth-largest in California history, continued to surge west, endangering thousands of homes, as forecasts called for a renewal of gusty winds. (AP)

SANTA BARBARA, California: Calming winds Friday gave firefighters a chance to gain ground against a huge wildfire in coastal mountains northwest of Los Angeles but the blaze continued to surge west, endangering thousands of homes, as forecasts called for a renewal of gusty winds.

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The so-called Thomas Fire, the fourth-largest in California history, was 35 percent contained Friday night after sweeping across 400 square miles of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties since it erupted December 4.
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Between Thursday night and Friday morning, the blaze claimed another 3,000 acres as it fed on brush and timber killed by California’s long drought or a week of hot, dry weather.
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Santa Barbara has had only a tiny amount of rain since October 1, the start of the new water year, and is more than 3 inches below normal to date.
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Firefighters continued to carve firebreaks above the communities of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Summerland and Montecito and state fire officials said evacuations would be called as needed as flames advanced.
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The fire already has destroyed more than 1,000 buildings, including well over 700 homes, and threatens 18,000 more structures.
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Another focus of firefighting was on the eastern flank in canyons where a state firefighter was killed Thursday near the agricultural town of Fillmore.
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The death of Cory Iverson, 32, was announced by Chief Ken Pimlott of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection but he released no information about the circumstances, citing an ongoing investigation by an accident review team.
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Iverson was an engineer with a strike team from the San Diego area and had been with Cal Fire since 2009. He is survived by his wife, who is pregnant, and a 2-year-old daughter, as well as his parents and other family.
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The National Weather Service forecast extreme fire danger or “red flag” conditions through at least Saturday evening, with winds gusting to 40 mph in the Santa Barbara County mountains where the fire is burning. Firefighters were facing first northerly “sundowner” winds through the night that could turn into northeasterly Santa Ana winds, driving the flames in another direction.
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Everything about the fire was massive, from a footprint larger than that of many cities to the sheer scale of destruction that cremated entire neighborhoods or the legions attacking it: more than 8,000 firefighters from nearly a dozen states, aided by 32 helicopters and 78 bulldozers.
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Firefighting costs were approaching $89 million.
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Meanwhile, firefighters continued to deal with the loss of their own. All 17 of the firefighters on Cory Iverson’s five-engine strike team were pulled off the fire lines after his death.
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On Thursday night, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean called for a moment of silence during a meeting for Fillmore residents.
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“As I was up in the canyon and I watched his fire brethren remove his flag-draped body from the canyon in the hills above where we sit right here, I couldn’t help but think about his pregnant wife and his young daughter who will never see their husband and father again,” Dean said.
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It was the second death linked to the fire. The body of a 70-year-old woman was found in a crashed car on an evacuation route last week.

California wildfires deadliest in state’s history as death toll climbs

October 13, 2017

AFP

© Josh Edelson / AFP | A firefighter walks near a pool as a neighbouring home burns in the Napa wine region in California on October 9, 2017.

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-10-13

Firefighters gained ground on Thursday against wildfires that have killed at least 31 people in Northern California and left hundreds missing in the chaos of mass evacuations in the heart of the state’s wine country.

The death toll, revised upward by eight on Thursday, marked the greatest loss of life from a single California wildfire event in recorded state history, two more than the 29 people killed by the Griffith Park fire of 1933 in Los Angeles.

With 3,500 homes and businesses incinerated, the so-called North Bay fires also rank among the most destructive.

The flames have scorched more than 190,000 acres (77,000 hectares), an area nearly the size of New York City, reducing whole neighborhoods in the city of Santa Rosa to ash and smoldering ruins dotted with charred trees and burned-out cars.

The official cause of the disaster was under investigation, but officials said power lines toppled by gale-force winds on Sunday night may have sparked the conflagration.

A resurgence of extreme wind conditions that had been forecast for Wednesday night and early Thursday failed to materialize, giving fire crews a chance to start carving containment lines.

But fierce winds were expected to return as early as Friday night, and a force of 8,000 firefighters was racing to reinforce and extend buffer lines across Northern California before then.

ENTIRE NEIGHBOURHOODS REDUCED TO ASH BY CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES

Despite progress, fire crews remained “a long way from being out of the woods,” Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire), told reporters in Sacramento, the state capital.

Mark Ghilarducci, state director of emergency services, added: “We are not even close to being out of this emergency.”

Death toll could rise

Authorities have warned that the death toll from the spate of more than 20 fires raging across eight counties for a fourth day could climb higher, with more than 400 people in Sonoma County alone still listed as missing.

One of the greatest immediate threats was to the Napa Valley town of Calistoga, whose 5,000-plus residents were ordered from their homes on Wednesday night as winds picked up and fire crept closer.

Calistoga Mayor Chris Canning said anyone refusing to heed the mandatory evacuation would be left to fend for themselves if fire approached, warning on Thursday: “You are on your own.”

Melissa Rodriguez, her husband, baby and dog camped in the parking lot of a local college after smoke forced them to flee their Calistoga apartment. “We have high hopes it will still be there when we go back. … It feels sad, helpless, there’s nothing we can do.”

The Tubbs fire on Thursday was within 2 miles (3 km) of Calistoga, which was spared on the first night of the fires. Whether the town burns “is going to depend on the wind,” Calistoga Fire Chief Steve Campbell told Reuters. “High winds are predicted, but we have not received them yet.”

Fire officials have said some people killed in the fires were asleep when flames engulfed their homes. Others had only minutes to escape as winds of over 60 mph (97 kph) fanned fast-moving blazes.

Ghilarducci said the loss of cell towers likely contributed to difficulties in warning residents.

“We have found bodies that were completely intact, and we have found bodies that were no more than ash and bone,” Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano told reporters.

He added that recovery teams would begin searching ruins with cadaver dogs.

Nearly 500 missing

As many as 900 missing-person reports had been filed in Sonoma County, although 437 had since turned up safe, Giordano said. It remained unclear how many of the 463 still listed as unaccounted for were actual fire victims rather than evacuees who failed to alert authorities after fleeing their homes, he said.

“The best we can pray for is that they haven’t checked in,” emergency operations spokeswoman Jennifer Larocque told Reuters.

Sonoma County accounted for 17 of the North Bay fatalities, all from the Tubbs fire, which now ranks as the deadliest single California wildfire since 2003.

About 25,000 people remained displaced on Wednesday as the fires belched smoke that drifted over the San Francisco Bay area, about 50 miles (80 km) to the south, where visibility was shrouded in haze and automobiles were coated with ash.

The fires struck the heart of the state’s world-renowned wine-producing region, wreaking havoc on its tourist industry, while damaging or demolishing at least 13 Napa Valley wineries.

The full economic impact of the fires on the wine industry was not immediately clear. But 90 percent of grapes in Napa Valley were picked before the fires broke out on Sunday, according to Napa Valley Vintners.

California’s newly legalized marijuana industry also was hit hard, with at least 20 pot farms in Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa counties ravaged, said Hezekiah Allen, executive director of the California Growers Association.

All the farms were seeking permits to eventually serve California’s nascent market for state-sanctioned recreational marijuana, Allen said.

Firefighters battle spreading wildfire near Athens, homes damaged

August 14, 2017

Reuters

AUGUST 14, 2017 / 3:57 AM

ATHENS (Reuters) – Firefighters battled to contain a wildfire near Athens on Monday after it spread overnight to three towns some 45 km (30 miles) northeast of the capital and damaged dozens of homes.

The blaze broke out around 1300 GMT on Sunday in Kalamos, a coastal holiday spot northeast of Athens and quickly spread, fanned by strong and changing winds.

A state of emergency was declared in the area as the blaze burned pine forest and thick smoke billowed above. By Monday afternoon, the fire’s perimeter had expanded to “dozens of kilometers” authorities said, and the smell of smoke hovered over central Athens.

More than 200 firefighters with five dozen fire engines, four water-dropping helicopters and one plane tackled the blaze but a rugged terrain dispersed with small communities made the fire fighting task difficult, the fire brigade said.

Authorities had ordered a precautionary evacuation of two youth camps and homes in the area, and evacuated a monastery after flames briefly reached its fence on Monday.

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, night, fire, sky, outdoor and nature

A firefighter tries to extinguish a fire at a house during a forest fire at Kalamos village, north of Athens, on Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017. Photo: Yorgos Karahalis, AP

Hundreds of residents fled the area of Kalamos, heading to the beach to spend the night.

“It was a terrible mess, that’s what it was. You could see homes on fire, people running, people desperate, it was chaos and the fire was very big,” a resident told Reuters TV.

Andreas Theodorou, a local councillor, said the blaze had damaged “several dozens of homes.”

More than 90 forest fires have been recorded in the last 24 hours across the country, with the most serious fronts near Athens, in the Peloponnese and on the Ionian islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia in western Greece.

“It’s arson according to an organized plan,” Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis, who is also the MP for Zakythnos, told state TV when asked to comment on the dozen fires burning on the island in the last two days. “There is no doubt about it.”

The cause of the wildfires was not known but summer blazes are common in Greece. More than 70 died in 2007 during the worst fires in decades.

Additional reporting by Lefteris Papadimas and George Georgiopoulos; Writing by Karolina Tagaris, editing by Pritha Sarkar

Deadly wildfires around the world

June 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP | One of Australia’s worst wildfires killed around 173 people in 2009

PARIS (AFP) – Portuguese firefighters kept up the battle Sunday after one of the worst wildfire disasters in recent history killed at least 62 people.Here is a rundown of some of the deadliest wildfires around the world over the past two centuries.

– Australia –

In February 2009, at least 173 people die in brush fires in the south east, notably in the state of Victoria where entire towns and more than 2,000 houses are destroyed. The fires lasts several weeks before being contained by thousands of firemen and volunteers. It is one of the worst fires ever recorded in Australia.

– China –

In May 1987, the deadliest forest fire in recent Chinese history kills 119 in the northeast of the country, injuring 102 and leaving 51,000 homeless.

– France –

In August 1949, in the southwest Landes region, 82 rescue workers are killed. The victims — firemen, volunteers and soldiers — are caught in a ball of fire after the winds suddenly changed direction.

– Greece –

In 2007, 77 people die at the end of August in unprecedented forest fires that ravaged 250,000 hectares (2,500 square kilometres) in the southern Peloponnese and the island of Evia, northeast of Athens. The fires are the worst recorded in Greece in recent years.

– Portugal –

In June 2017, a fire roars through Portugal’s central Leiria region, killing at least 62 people and injuring over 50 more.

In 1966, a fire in the forest of Sintra, west of Lisbon, kills 25 soldiers fighting the blaze.

– Russia –

Around 60 people die between July and August 2010 as fires rage in over a million hectares of forest, bogs and brushwood, burning entire villages in the western part of the country during an unprecedented heatwave and drought.

– United States –

Likely the country’s deadliest, a wildfire struck Peshtigo, Wisconsin in October 1871, killing between 800 and 1,200 people. The fire had been burning for several days before it ripped into the forested village with a population of 1,700, destroying it in a matter of hours. It also damaged 16 other villages and destroyed 500,000 hectares of land.

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Collapse of burning Tehran high-rise kills 30 firefighters

January 19, 2017

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A high-rise building in Tehran engulfed by fire collapsed on Thursday, killing at least 30 firefighters and injuring some 75 people, state media reported.

The disaster struck the Plasco building, an iconic structure in central Tehran just north of the Iranian capital’s sprawling bazaar. Firefighters, soldiers and other emergency responders dug through the rubble, looking for survivors.

Iranian authorities did not immediately release definitive casualty figures, which is common in unfolding disasters.

Iranian firefighters work at the scene of the collapsed Plasco building after being engulfed by a fire, in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. A h...

Iranian firefighters work at the scene of the collapsed Plasco building after being engulfed by a fire, in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. A high-rise building in Tehran engulfed by a fire collapsed on Thursday as scores of firefighters battled the blaze. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran’s state-run Press TV announced the firefighters’ deaths, without giving a source for the information. Local Iranian state television said 30 civilians were injured in the disaster, while the state-run IRNA news agency said 45 firefighters had been injured.

Firefighters battled the blaze for several hours before the collapse. The fire appeared to be the most intense in the building’s upper floors, home to garment workshops where tailors cook for themselves and use old kerosene heaters for warmth in winter.

Police tried to keep out shopkeepers and others wanting to rush back in to collect their valuables.

Tehran’s mayor, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, said there were “no ordinary civilians” trapped under the rubble. However, witnesses said some people had slipped through the police cordon and gone back into the building.

President Hassan Rouhani ordered Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli to investigate and report the cause of the incident as soon as possible, IRNA reported.

He also ordered the ministry to ensure the injured were cared for and to take immediate action to compensate those affected by the disaster.

The building came down in a matter of seconds, shown live on state television, which had begun an interview with a journalist at the scene. A side of the building came down first, tumbling perilously close to a firefighter perched on a ladder and spraying water on the blaze.

A thick plume of brown smoke rose over the site after the collapse. Onlookers wailed in grief.

Among those watching the disaster unfold was Masoumeh Kazemi, who said she rushed to the building as her two sons and a brother had jobs in the garment workshops occupying the upper floors of the high-rise.

“I do not know where they are now,” Kazemi said, crying.

In a nearby intersection, Abbas Nikkhoo stood with tears in his eyes.

“My nephew was working in a workshop there,” he said. “He has been living with me since moving to Tehran last year from the north of the country in hopes of finding a job.”

Jalal Maleki, a fire department spokesman, earlier told Iranian state television that 10 firehouses responded to the blaze, which was first reported around 8 a.m. He later said authorities visited the building “many times” to warn them about conditions there.

“They stacked up material on staircases, which was very awful, although we warned them many times,” he said.

Late Thursday afternoon, another fire broke out at a building next to the collapsed tower, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. Firefighters worked to put it out.

Several embassies are located near the building. Turkey’s state-run news agency, reporting from Tehran, said the Turkish Embassy was evacuated as a precaution, though it sustained no damage in the collapse.

The Plasco building was an iconic presence on the Tehran skyline.

The 17-story tower was built in the early 1960s by Iranian Jewish businessman Habib Elghanian and named after his plastics manufacturing company. It was the tallest building in the city at the time of its construction.

Elghanian was tried on charges that included espionage and executed in the months after the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought the current ruling system to power — a move that prompted many members of the country’s longstanding Jewish community to flee.

The tower is attached to a multistory shopping mall featuring a sky-lit atrium and a series of turquoise fountains. It wasn’t immediately clear if the mall was damaged.

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Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell and Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

Related:

 (Photos before the collapse)

Iranian firefighters work to extinguish fire of the Plasco building in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. A high-rise building in Tehran engulfed...

Iranian firefighters work to extinguish fire of the Plasco building in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. A high-rise building in Tehran engulfed by a fire collapsed on Thursday as scores of firefighters battled the blaze. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

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On lookers watch the Plasco building engulfed by a fire, in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. A high-rise building in Tehran engulfed by a fire ...

On lookers watch the Plasco building engulfed by a fire, in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. A high-rise building in Tehran engulfed by a fire collapsed on Thursday as scores of firefighters battled the blaze. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Smoke rises up from the Plasco building where firefighters work to extinguish fire in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The high-rise building w...

Smoke rises up from the Plasco building where firefighters work to extinguish fire in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The high-rise building was engulfed by a fire then collapsed on Thursday as scores of firefighters battled the blaze. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iranian firefighters work to extinguish fire of the Plasco building in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. A high-rise building in Tehran engulfed...

Iranian firefighters work to extinguish fire of the Plasco building in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. A high-rise building in Tehran engulfed by a fire collapsed on Thursday as scores of firefighters battled the blaze. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

An Iranian firefighter, bottom left, works in operations to extinguish fire of the Plasco building in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The high...

An Iranian firefighter, bottom left, works in operations to extinguish fire of the Plasco building in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The high-rise building engulfed by a fire collapsed on Thursday as scores of firefighters battled the blaze. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iranian firefighters work to extinguish fire of the Plasco building in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The high-rise building engulfed by a fi...

Iranian firefighters work to extinguish fire of the Plasco building in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The high-rise building engulfed by a fire collapsed on Thursday as scores of firefighters battled the blaze. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

In this image made from video, a high-rise residential building collapses following a large fire, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in Tehran, Iran. Authorities said ...

In this image made from video, a high-rise residential building collapses following a large fire, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in Tehran, Iran. Authorities said that over 20 people were injured in the blast that erupted in the morning hours. (IRINN via AP)

Iranians watch the Plasco building engulfed by a fire, in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The high-rise building engulfed by a fire collapsed ...

Iranians watch the Plasco building engulfed by a fire, in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The high-rise building engulfed by a fire collapsed on Thursday as scores of firefighters battled the blaze. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Police officers direct people in front of the Plasco building engulfed by a fire, in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. A high-rise building in T...

Police officers direct people in front of the Plasco building engulfed by a fire, in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. A high-rise building in Tehran engulfed by a fire collapsed on Thursday as scores of firefighters battled the blaze. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iranian firefighters run towards the Plasco building engulfed by fire in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The high-rise building engulfed by a ...

Iranians watch the Plasco building engulfed by a fire, in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The high-rise building engulfed by a fire collapsed ...

Iranians watch the Plasco building engulfed by a fire, in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The high-rise building engulfed by a fire collapsed on Thursday as scores of firefighters battled the blaze. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

In this image made from video, a high-rise residential building is collapsed following a large fire, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in Tehran, Iran. Authorities sa...

In this image made from video, a high-rise residential building is collapsed following a large fire, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in Tehran, Iran. Authorities said that over 20 people were injured in the blast that erupted in the morning hours. (IRINN via AP)

Iranian firefighters work to extinguish fire of the Plasco building in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The high-rise building engulfed by a fi...

Iranian firefighters work to extinguish fire of the Plasco building in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The high-rise building engulfed by a fire collapsed on Thursday as scores of firefighters battled the blaze. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iranians watch the Plasco building where smoke rises from its windows in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The high-rise building engulfed by a ...

Iranians watch the Plasco building where smoke rises from its windows in central Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. The high-rise building engulfed by a fire collapsed on Thursday as scores of firefighters battled the blaze. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-4135238/Scores-Iran-firefighters-battle-blaze-Tehran-building.html#ixzz4WDtHP5IO
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BBC News

Tehran fire: Many feared dead as high-rise collapses

State TV was broadcasting live as the building collapsed

About 25 firefighters are missing and feared dead after a high-rise building in Iran’s capital, Tehran, caught fire and collapsed, officials say.

Two hundred had battled the blaze in the landmark 17-storey Plasco building for several hours before it fell to the ground in a matter of seconds.

Rescue workers and sniffer dogs are searching the rubble for survivors.

Completed in 1962, the building was once Tehran’s tallest and contained a shopping centre and clothing workshops.

Officials said there had been warnings about a lack of safety in the building.

Smoke pours from the Plasco building in Tehran, Iran, shortly before it collapses (19 January 2017)
Firefighters battled the blaze for hours before the block collapsed. EPA photo
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Rescue workers gather in front of the collapsed Plasco building in Tehran, Iran (19 January 2017)
Little was left of the 17-storey Plasco building after it crumbled to the ground. EPA

The fire reportedly began on the ninth floor at around 08:00 (04:30 GMT).

Initial photos showed flames and smoke pouring out of the top of the building.

Ten fire stations responded to the blaze and state television reported that dozens of firefighters were inside the building when the north wall collapsed, swiftly bringing down the whole structure.

One of the firefighters told AFP news agency: “I was inside and suddenly I felt the building was shaking and was about to collapse. We gathered colleagues and got out, and a minute later the building collapsed.”

Collapsed Plasco building in Tehran, Iran (19 January 2017)
The building was the first high-rise block in central Tehran. TASNIM NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS
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A rescue worker stand in the rubble of the collapsed Plasco building in Tehran, Iran (19 January 2017)
It was not immediately clear how many people were trapped. EPA

“It was like a horror movie,” the owner of a nearby grocery shop told Reuters.

Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said rescue workers were searching for at least 25 firefighters thought to have been inside the building when it collapsed.

He added that “no ordinary civilians” were believed to be trapped, but witnesses told the Associated Press that they had seen some people slip through the police cordon in an attempt to retrieve their possessions.

Some business owners were later filmed by state TV trying to enter the ruins.

A wounded fireman is carried from the collapsed Plasco building in Tehran, Iran (19 January 2017)
Rescue workers managed to pull some wounded firefighters out of the rubble. AFP
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A firefighter reacts at the site of a collapsed high-rise building in Tehran, Iran (19 January 2017)
Others who survived unscathed had to be consoled by colleagues. AFP photo

Masoumeh Kazemi said her two sons and a brother had jobs at one of the many clothing workshops inside the building.

“I do not know where they are now,” she told the Associated Press in tears.

The official Irna news agency reported that more than 200 people were injured in the incident and had been taken to hospitals across the capital.

Police officers had cordoned off Jomhoori avenue, which passes by the building, as well as the nearby British and Turkish embassies, it added.

Fire department spokesman Jalal Maleki said it had repeatedly warned the building’s managers that it was unsafe, even lacking fire extinguishers.

Rescue worker helps an injured man after building collapse in Tehran, Iran (19 January 2017)
President Hassan Rouhani has ordered the interior minister to investigate the incident. EPA photo

“Even in the stairwells, a lot of clothing is stored and this is against safety standards. The managers didn’t pay attention to the warnings,” AFP quoted him as telling state TV.

The Tasnim news agency reported that the building “had caught fire in the past”.

President Hassan Rouhani ordered Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli to investigate the incident, calling it “extremely sad and unfortunate”.

The Plasco building was built by the prominent Iranian Jewish businessman Habib Elghanian and was named after his company. He was executed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution after being convicted of charges including spying for Israel.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38675628

No End In Sight For Canada’s Wild Fire — Hot weather and gusting winds make firefighting even tougher

May 18, 2016

Firefighters were preparing to tackle hot weather and gusting winds on Wednesday as they battled a massive wildfire raging near Fort McMurray, Alberta, that threatens oil sands facilities and work camps north of the city.

CALGARY, Alberta: Firefighters were preparing to tackle hot weather and gusting winds on Wednesday as they battled a massive wildfire raging near Fort McMurray, Alberta, that threatens oil sands facilities and work camps north of the city.

The fire forced the evacuation of thousands of workers on Tuesday, prolonging a shutdown that cut Canadian oil output by a million barrels a day. It destroyed a 665-room lodge for oil sand workers, then blazed east toward other camps.

Winds forecast for Wednesday were expected to push the uncontrolled blaze further east, putting oil operations in its path, officials said. The 355,000-hectare (877,224-acre) fire was also stretching toward the Saskatchewan border.

“We expect the fire to spread on the easterly side,” Alberta wildfire manager Chad Morrison said on a call late on Tuesday.

The wildfire is taking a toll on Alberta’s economy, with one study estimating lost oil production to cut gross domestic product (GDP) by more than CUS$70 million (27.5 million pounds) a day.

About 8,000 workers were evacuated from camps and facilities north of Fort McMurray on Tuesday, with both Suncor Energy Inc and Syncrude, majority owned by Suncor, removing all but bare essential staff from their major operations.

None of the oil sands have caught fire, and the industry has redoubled efforts to ensure facilities are well-protected. Officials said facilities have been cleared of vegetation and have lots of gravel on site, reducing their fire risk.

The roughly 90,000 residents of Fort McMurray were growing frustrated over the lack of an estimate for their return to the oil sands hub, which they were forced to flee about two weeks ago.

Late on Tuesday officials told a townhall meeting with residents they were narrowing down return dates that they hoped to share “very, very soon,” but added the city remained unsafe because of hot spots and the fire threat.

“On the ground here, it is still very, very smoky. The air quality is not good at all and it is not safe to return,” said municipality representative Dennis Fraser. “The number one thing is the safety of our citizens.”

Prior to the latest setback, lost oil production was expected to average about 1.2 million barrels a day for 14 days, or roughly CUS$985 million in lost real GDP, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

(Writing and additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Vancouver)

Canada wildfire explodes in size — already called the costliest natural disaster in Canada’s history — doubled in size on Saturday — 150 helicopters

May 7, 2016

Reuters and AFP

© Cole Burston / AFP | Police officers standing in heavy smoke manage a road block on Highway 63 near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada on May 6, 2016

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2016-05-07

A raging Canadian wildfire grew explosively on Saturday as hot, dry winds pushed the blaze across the energy heartland of Alberta and smoke forced the shutdown of a major oil sands project.

The fire that has already prompted the evacuation of 88,000 people from the city of Fort McMurray was on its way to doubling in size on Saturday, the seventh day of what is expected to be the costliest natural disaster in Canada’s history.

With temperatures on Saturday expected to rise as high as 28 Celsius (82 Fahrenheit), the weather was hindering efforts to fight the wildfire. Officials said it was still burning out of control and expected to keep pushing to the northeast.

“In these conditions officials tell us the fire may double in size in the forested areas today. As well, they may actually reach the Saskatchewan border. In no way is this fire under control,” Alberta Premier Rachel Notley told a media briefing.

She said it was clear Fort McMurray residents would not be able to return anytime soon, noting the city’s gas has been turned off, its power grid was damaged and the water is not drinkable.

The fire had scorched at least 156,000 hectares (385,000 acres) by Saturday morning, the Alberta government said.

The full extent of property losses in Fort McMurray has yet to be determined, but one analyst estimated insurance losses could exceed C$9 billion ($7 billion).

More than 500 firefighters are battling the blaze in and around Fort McMurray, along with 15 helicopters and 14 air tankers, the Alberta government said.

Within Fort McMurray, visibility is often less than 30 feet (9 meters) due to the smoke, making it still very dangerous to circulate in the city, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Inspector Kevin Kunetzki told reporters at a highway checkpoint.

Syncrude oil sands project said Saturday it will shut down its northern Alberta operation and remove all personnel from the site due to smoke. There was no imminent threat from the fire.

Notley said it appeared the fire could burn to the edge of a project operated by Suncor Energy Inc, but noted the site was highly resilient to fire damage.

An official said CNOOC Nexen’s Long Lake oil sands facility appeared to have escaped damage, but was still obscured by smoke.

At least 10 oil sand operators have cut production due to evacuations and other emergency measures that complicated delivery of petroleum by rail, pipeline and highway.

About half of Canada’s oil sands production capacity, or one million barrels per day (bpd), had been taken offline by the conflagration as of Friday, according to a Reuters estimate.

Fleeing camps

Police escorted another convoy of evacuees out of the oil sands region north of Fort McMurray, taking them on a harrowing journey through burned out parts of the city and billowing smoke. Some 1,600 structures are believed to have been lost.

Earlier in the week most evacuees headed south by car on Alberta Highway 63, the only land route out of the area, in a slow-moving exodus that left many temporarily stranded on the roadside as they ran out of gasoline.

But about 25,000 residents who initially sought shelter in oil camps and settlements north of the city found themselves cut off in overcrowded conditions. They were forced on Friday and Saturday to retrace their route back through Fort McMurray on Highway 63.

Notley said in the past two days about 12,000 of those evacuees had been airlifted out, and in the past 24 hours 7,000 had traveled south by road. She said the goal was to have all the evacuees south by the end of Saturday.

Entire neighborhoods were reduced to ruins, but most evacuees fled without knowing the fate of their own homes. The majority got away with few possessions, some forced to leave pets behind.

Stephane Dumais, thumbing through his insurance documents at an evacuation center at Lac La Biche, said he has thought about moving away. But the idea does not sit well with the heavy equipment operator for a logging company.

“To me that’s like giving up on my city,” he said. “As long as it takes to rebuild it, let’s work together. It’s not going to be the same as it used to be.”

(REUTERS)

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BBC News

Canada wildfire: Images show Fort McMurray devastation

Pictures obtained by the BBC show large parts of the Canadian city of Fort McMurray in ruins following a devastating wildfire.

The exact scale of the damage is difficult to assess, as access to the city is restricted.

Officials have given few details other than to report that 1,600 homes and other buildings have been destroyed.

However, people who have seen the damage say whole neighbourhoods have been wiped out.

One picture shows the ruins of many houses, with a car untouched by fire. In another, a destroyed church is surrounded by rubble.

Neighbourhood in ruins

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Burnt-out house in Fort McMurray, 5 May 2016

 

A Mountie surveys the damage on a street in Fort McMurray, 5 May 2016

This image from local police also hinted at the scale of the devastation. RCMP Alberta

Some parts of the city, in the province of Alberta, have been defended resolutely and are still standing.

The city’s airport suffered only minor damage despite being licked by flame and engulfed by smoke.

Only the “Herculean” efforts of fire fighters saved the facility, says Scott Long of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.

Crews also managed to protect other key infrastructure including the water treatment plant and the hospital.

Many homeowners were not so lucky.

Road in Fort McMurray

A wall of smoke towered above the fields

Road in Fort McMurray

Roads out of Fort McMurray are perilous

The images of whole neighbourhoods in ruins are shocking but they will not surprise the people of Fort McMurray who fled knowing that their city was in danger of being consumed by fire.

The fire in the province of Alberta covers 850 sq km (328.2 sq miles), and the entire city of almost 90,000 people was evacuated three days ago.

Most fled south but some of those who headed north have been airlifted to safety.

A police-escorted convoy of 1,500 vehicles was passing through the city along the only safe route to Edmonton and Calgary to the south, but police have told the BBC it has has been suspended because of flames up to 200 feet high on both sides of the road.

It will take approximately four days for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to escort all evacuees from sites north of Fort McMurray, authorities said.

For nearby communities though the danger has not receded.

Officials are predicting that it will be “weeks and weeks” before the fire is completely out. The region has not had significant rain in two months.

See how the Fort McMurray fires spread

4 May 2016

3 May 2016

The skies above the empty and smouldering city are full of strange shapes.

There are clouds that billow like bright white cauliflowers, boiling rapidly as they change by the second.

There are clouds illuminated by vertical streaks of a dull red from the fires on the ground.

And there are giant clouds stretching as far as the eye can take in with a single glance, great walls of smoke blown sideways by the strong winds.

Map of path of Alberta wildfire

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Smoke billows up above a road in Fort McMurray, 5 May 2016

The helicopters – almost 150 of them, we are told – look puny in the face of such a dramatic display of nature’s power, but occasionally they do seem to be making progress in slowing the fire’s march across the plains.

Ultimately though, says Bill Stewart, co-director of the University of California’s Center for Fire Research and Outreach, only nature can stop it entirely.

“You could add five times the number of firefighters,” he said, “but you can’t get all the embers. There’s no way to put out every ember flying over firefighters’ heads.”

That makes for a terrifying and dangerous time for those on the front line of the fight.

On Thursday night we watched as firefighters rushed into the community of Anzac, trying to save it from flames which were tearing through a forest on the shores of nearby Gregoire Lake.

From across the lake the sight was stunning and horrifying. Fierce winds fanned the flames, and towering conifer trees went up in a flash as if they were matches struck on a box.

The whole blaze sent a pall of smoke high above, while the fires gave the sky an orange glow which could be seen for miles around.

It felt like a distress signal, signifying a disaster which is still unfolding.

Syrian refugees escape from Fort McMurray fire

Some Syrian refugees escaped violence in their home country only to have to flee their new homes in Fort McMurray. The Globe and Mail reported on the Labak family, who had fled Syria in 2011 and arrived in Canada two months ago, settling into Fort McMurray.

“My kids, mom say, ‘What [do] we have to do? You said to us we will live there, we will live happy. Why that happened to us?'” Ms Labak told the newspaper. “That’s very bad. I can’t answer to them anything.”

The fire, ash and smell in the air as they fled the town were reminiscent of bombings at their home in Damascus. They told the Globe and Mail that the cots at the shelter near Fort McMurray reminded them of refugee camps. They left most of their belongings – including their passports – behind.

In Calgary, some Syrian refugees are organising a support group for victims of the fire on Facebook, the Calgary Herald reports.

“(Canadians) gave us everything. And now it’s time to return the favour,” Rita Khanchet, who came to Calgary from Syria five months ago, wrote in the group.

Money being collected by the group will go toward hygiene items for Fort McMurray evacuees.

A new life in Canada for Syrian refugees

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36224767