Dozens of bushfires break out in Australia, several firefighters injured

SYDNEY (AFP) - Dozens of bushfires broke out in Australia on Tuesday, with seven firefighters injured battling blazes in areas west of Sydney that have destroyed at least one home.

About 40 uncontained bushfires erupted in the country's most populous state of New South Wales, aided by temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius and gusting winds.

"Currently 40 fires burning in NSW not contained. Fire behaviour very erratic. People need to keep monitoring situation rapidly changing," tweeted NSW Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers.

News footage showed black smoke billowing over homes, and at least three vehicles going up in flames.

"Unfortunately we can confirm that one property has been destroyed," the fire service tweeted of a blaze at Winmalee in the Blue Mountains.

It added: "Five firefighters have sustained smoke inhalation and two have received minor burns."

At Castlereagh, a 60-hectare (148 acres) grass fire was threatening homes, and believed to be impacting on rural properties.

"Looking down the main street of Windsor, it's quite black and smokey," one witness told Sky News of the three-hectare fire burning in the region in Sydney's western fringes.

State Premier Barry O'Farrell told parliament more than 500 firefighters were responding to the blazes which follow 27 dry days in Sydney and mark a very early start to the bushfire season.

"Strong, gusty north-westerly winds continue to affect the firegrounds, which are not expected to abate until later this evening," he said.

Australia has just experienced its warmest 12 months on record, with the average temperature throughout the country in the year to August 31 a total of 1.11 degrees Celsius above the long-term average.

Australia's last summer witnessed an unprecedented heatwave, bushfires and floods, seeing a government commission dub it an "Angry Summer".

The Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed the three summer months ending February 28, 2013 were the hottest season ever recorded in Australia.