Heat is on in Marble Bar

Five minutes from the main drag of Marble Bar is an oasis in the Pilbara town dubbed Australia's hottest.

Locals say the first big rain cleans out the natural pool formed by a bar of jasper spanning the Coonan River that gives the town its name - it was mistaken for marble - and the second makes it perfect for a swim.

But with the town's only public pool shut at the height of summer, nobody is in the mood to be picky as Marble Bar swelters along with the rest of the State.

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In the words of the sign that greets visitors: warmest welcome from Australia's hottest town.

Marble Bar earned its reputation with a record-setting 160 consecutive days over 100F (37.8C) in 1923 but other towns were hotter this week, including Onslow, which topped 48C for two consecutive days, and Learmonth, Paraburdoo and Telfer, which recorded 47C, 45C and 45C respectively yesterday.

Many Marble Bar residents believe Weather Bureau figures, which put the peak temperature at 44.7C this week, are too low because the station is in the coolest part of town.

Put a thermometer on the ground on a day in the mid-40s and it will quickly hit 50C.

Lately, tempers have been rising along with the mercury.

The swimming pool has been shut for two months because of problems finding and retaining qualified staff to run it.

Iron Clad Hotel barmaid Kristie Crawford is doubly frustrated because when she filled a cattle trough for her children to play in instead, the local shire told her she would need to erect a pool fence to meet safety standards.

"It's the hottest town in Australia and we don't have a pool," she said. "If we had a town pool, we would use it."

General store owner Anne- Marie Kiernan, whose children Sieanne and Chaddron were cooling off in the river this week, is also near the end of her tether.

"We're sick to death of it," Ms Kiernan said. "It's every summer we go through this."

Her eldest daughter Eama Duffy, 17, said the closed pool was "the only cool place we have".

"When it's open we live there," she said. "It closes pretty much every summer. When you need it the most it's closed."

East Pilbara Shire chief executive Allen Cooper said the council had battled staff shortages across the board but a new staff member had been found and the pool was awaiting approval on water quality before it could open. That could be as soon as next weekend.

Long-time residents have sweated through enough summers to learn their own tricks for keeping cool.

For Kevin Danks, a shire councillor and resident for 20 years, that means building a "bush hut" in his backyard, which is where he sleeps in summer.

The hut has to be remade every year by stuffing dried spinifex into a mesh fence. It is cooled by water trickled from pipes running on solar power and fans inside the hut.

Mr Danks said it was preferable to using the generator to run air-conditioning through the night. "In the old days, this is all they had," he said.

The West Australian

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