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Grappling with loss and uncertainty in Australia's fires

By Madison Park and Robyn Curnow, CNN
October 23, 2013 -- Updated 0724 GMT (1524 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Wildfires to be unpredictable in Australia's most populous state
  • Uncertainty for residents who live in Blue Mountains
  • More than 200 homes have been lost in fires

(CNN) -- Residents of Australia's most populous state are enduring unpredictable wildfires fueled by strong winds, dry heat and low humidity.

Authorities warned of worsening conditions and advised residents to self-evacuate in certain areas. On Tuesday, the New South Wales Rural Fire Services issued blunt warnings to residents in vulnerable areas.

Uncertain of how long they would have to leave their homes and what may happen to their homes and belongings, residents posed questions to fire authorities.

Firefighters tried to protect towns by conducting controlled burns -- intended to clear away brush and vegetation --- that could fuel the active, uncontrollable fire.

The wildfires have already claimed more than 200 homes.

Firefighters, many of whom are volunteers have left their day jobs, converged to help. They descended into deep canyons and mountains, some of which had tough, inaccessible terrains to try to get ahead of the fire before it reaches towns and homes.

Tim Parsley, one of the firefighters, has felt the impact of the fires as his sister lost her house. Among the rubble, they managed to salvage her wedding ring, but "everything else was gone," he said.

"The thing that I said to my sister is that you got away with your life and we're sitting here having a conversation about it and that's all that matters."

The wildfires stretching along nearly 1,000-mile line in New South Wales, began last week.

On Wednesday, Ruth Dykyj, an author in Killingworth, New South Wales, noted dreadful conditions outdoors.

The fire's toll was erratic in neighborhoods. Some homes were reduced to ashes and just across the street, other houses remained untouched.

Christy Daschke is one of those who was affected. She and her husband, Jake examined the rubble that used to be their home. The only belonging that emerged unscathed is the line used to dry their clothes.

They regret that they could not save their photos.

"The honeymoon, the wedding, me as a baby, of Jake as a baby, my whole 12 years with Jake --- we don't have a record of any photos to show my children of, you know, me growing up with their dad," Daschke said.

As residents grappled with their loss and uncertainty of the fires, others rallied to help. Support for people affected in New South Wales came in different ways.

Robyn Connell, a community worker and mother who lives in Blue Mountains observed this at her neighborhood meeting in the town of Katoomba, earlier this week.

More than 70 fires remain.

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