Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes as flames from a number of wildfires devastated the Australian island of Tasmania, local media said Saturday.

High temperatures that have soared to 41.3 C (106 F) in some areas of the island, the highest recorded since 1880, have sparked 40 different fires around the insular state, located southeast of mainland Australia.

Local authorities said more than 2,000 people have had to spend the night in cities far from their homes or in shelters set up by the local government.

One of the hardest hit areas is the community of Dunalley, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the city of Hobart, where 30 percent of the buildings have gone up in flames, forcing residents to flee to other cities.

Police said it is probable that a member of a firefighter brigade lost his life there trying to douse the blaze inside a building.

Tasmanian fire chief Gavin Freemen said on ABC television that even though some fires have been controlled or are dying down, inhabitants must beware of further outbreaks of the flames.

On Feb. 7, 2009, 173 people died, entire villages were wiped out and 500,000 hectares (1.23 million acres) were charred in the fires of "Black Saturday" in the state of Victoria, one of the greatest tragedies in the history of Australia. EFE