Ultrarunners Injured in Wildfire

Four critically burned in Australia

Sep 7, 2011
Outside Magazine

Four ultrarunners competing in the Kimberly Ultramarathon were badly burned in a wildfire near Kununurra, Australia on Friday. Organizers knew that small brush fires were active in the area and were given permission to proceed with the race, a 100-kilometer event through rugged, dry terrain in western Australia's Kimberly Plateau. But just past the race's second checkpoint, Kate Sanderson, Turia Pitt, Michael Hull, and Martin Van Der Merwe were trapped as a fire blazed through a gorge. Helicopters airlifted the runners to different hospitals, where Sanderson and Pitt are being treated with life-threatening injuries from burns across 60 to 80 percent of their bodies. Organizers later cancelled the race and removed all 41 competitors from the course. It was "probably the scariest time in my life, to hear the girls just screaming and there was nothing we could do," Hull said. Record rainfall in Australia earlier this year allowed the growth of an unusual amount of grass, which has now died, dried out, and is fueling wildfires.

Read more at Perth Now

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