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Firefighters controlling Australian wildfires that killed 2 men and destroyed 143 buildings

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PERTH, Australia — Wildfires that killed two men and destroyed more than 140 buildings in southwest Australia were being brought under control, officials said Monday.

The blazes had scorched more than 71,150 hectares (175,800 acres) of farms and woodland south of Perth, the Western Australia state capital, since they were sparked by lightning strikes last Wednesday, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services said in a statement.

The fires had destroyed 143 buildings, including 128 houses, it said. Most of the property damage occurred in the township of Yarloop, where two men in their 70s died on Thursday, Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis said. Four firefighters sustained minor injuries.

More than 450 firefighters took advantage of cooler conditions since Sunday to stop the fires from spreading further, Francis said.

"It's not totally under control yet, but we're very optimistic about the next 24 hours," Francis told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio early Monday.

Destructive wildfires are common across much of Australia during the southern hemisphere summer. In 2009, wildfires killed 173 people and destroyed more than 2,000 homes in little more than a day in Victoria state.

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