New South Wales given no respite from wildfires

At Bell, a New South Wales Rural Fire Service volunteer tackles a blaze. Picture: AP
At Bell, a New South Wales Rural Fire Service volunteer tackles a blaze. Picture: AP
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FIREFIGHTERS battling some of the most destructive wildfires to yet strike Australia’s most populous state were focusing on a major blaze yesterday near the town of Lithgow that stretched along a 190-mile front.

Authorities warned that high temperatures and winds were likely to maintain heightened fire danger for days in New South Wales.

The fires have killed one man, destroyed 208 homes and damaged another 122 since Thursday, the Rural Fire Service said.

Firefighters have taken advantage of milder conditions in recent days to reduce the number of fires threatening towns around Sydney from more than 100 on Thursday night to 61 yesterday, fire service spokesman Matt Sun said.

Fifteen of these fires continued to burn out of control, including the blaze near Lithgow, west of Sydney, which was given the highest danger ranking by the fire service. Authorities expect that blaze will continue to burn for days and have advised several nearby communities to consider evacuating ahead of worsening weather conditions.

Mr Sun said temperatures in the fire zone yesterday exceeded 25 degrees Celsius, with winds reaching 12 miles per hour and humidity dropping to 30 per cent.

“It’s not as dire as it could be, but it’s certainly challenging work for firefighters and expected to get worse,” Mr Sun said.

The defence department, meanwhile, said it was investigating whether there was any link between the Lithgow fire, which started on Wednesday, and military exercises using explosives at a nearby training range on the same day.

“Defence is investigating if the two events are linked,” the department said in a statement on Saturday.

Mr Sun said the cause of the fire was also under investigation by fire authorities and would be made public when determined.

Arson investigators are examining the origins of several of more than 100 fires that have threatened towns surrounding Sydney in recent days.

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