UK & World News
Australia Fires: Military Investigates Blaze
The Australian military is investigating whether it is responsible for starting a major bushfire, as firefighters battle blazes that have destroyed or damaged 300 homes.
The Rural Fire Service said some 85 fires were burning across New South Wales state, with about 20 of them uncontained despite Saturday's cooler weather conditions.
Among the major fires was one burning between the towns of Lithgow and Bilpin, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of Sydney.
The blaze, called the State Mine Fire, has so far burned through 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) and destroyed a number of properties.
The Australian Defence Force said its personnel were carrying out explosive ordnance training in the area on Wednesday, the day the fire started.
"The fire started on 16 October, the same day that Defence personnel were conducting an explosive ordnance training activity," it said in a statement.
"Defence is investigating if the two events are linked.
"Our thoughts are with those who have lost property or whose property is threatened by these devastating fires."
More than 130 firefighters are still battling the blaze.
The military said it will work with fire authorities to investigate the blaze once the fire is extinguished.
"The primary concern at this stage is for the safety of the communities in the vicinity of the fire, then the ongoing investigation which will review both the incident and Defence procedures," the statement said.
Arson investigators are examining the origins of several more fires that have threatened towns surrounding Sydney in recent days.
The bushfires across the state could take weeks to fully overcome, particularly with more hot and gusty weather forecast for as soon as Sunday.
One man has already died while trying to protect his home on the Central Coast north of Sydney, possibly succumbing to a heart attack, but authorities are hopeful no other people are unaccounted for in the blazes.
The fires took hold in warm and windy conditions on Thursday and the worst affected areas have been in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, where some 193 properties were destroyed and 109 damaged in the towns of Springwood and Winmalee.
Yellow Rock resident Christine Senior lost her family home.
"I said to my husband, 'I remember when you carried me across the threshold'. I remember having all my babies here. All of that hard work that we put into everything for all years and it's just gone," she said.
NSW Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said Saturday's conditions were a "pause" but that the fire perimeter stretched for more than 500 kilometres.
"We're by no means out of the woods," he told national broadcaster ABC.
"It's just calmed down a little bit and obviously we're bracing ourselves for these worsening conditions."