Oz wildfires: Weather 'to worsen'

Thousands of firefighters in Australia are continuing to battle dozens of wildfires raging in New South Wales as weather conditions are set to worsen. The country's rural fire service chief has warned "the worst of the weather is still to come."

Military exercise sparked biggest wildfire in Australia

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service said a military training exercise sparked the largest of the wildfires that have ravaged the Australian state.

A shot of the bushfire billowing smoke from the tree canopy.
Investigators found the bushfire near Lithgow in New South Wales was caused by an army training exercise. Credit: Reuters TV

Fire investigators found that a massive fire near the city of Lithgow, west of Sydney, began on 16 October at a nearby Defence Department training area, and that the blaze was started as a result of live ordnance exercises at the army range.

A fire still burning.
The fire has scorched 47,000 hectares (180 square miles) and destroyed at least three houses. Credit: Reuters TV

The fire has scorched 47,000 hectares (180 square miles) and destroyed at least three houses, but no injuries or deaths have been reported.

A firefighter hoses down a fire.
The Defence Department declined to comment on the investigators' findings. Credit: Reuters TV

The Defence Department declined to comment on the investigators' findings, but confirmed earlier that an explosive ordnance training exercise was conducted on that date

Prince Charles sends message to Aussie firefighters

Prince Charles has sent a message of support to the firefighters tackling wildfires in Australia, some of whom he met on a visit to Bondi Beach last November.

Prince Charles meets wellwishers on Bondi Beach in Australia in November 2012
Prince Charles meets wellwishers on Bondi Beach in Australia in November 2012 Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

The message to the New South Wales Rural Fire Commissioner said: "I just wanted you all to know that you are very much in my thoughts as you battle courageously against such appalling bushfires around Sydney.

It continued: "My wife and I so greatly admire the selfless service you provide in such incredibly dangerous and distressing circumstances and our hearts go out to all those – including firefighters – who have lost their homes in this terrible conflagration."

The Prince has also made a contribution to the Australian Red Cross "to help them support people affected by the bushfires".

Read: Queen's send 'heartfelt sympathies' to victims of wildfires

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Wildfires in Australia 'unparalleled' for time of year

Firefighters say they have "never before have we seen the extent of damage and destruction" of wildfires in the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury areas of New South Wales, Australia so early in the year.

A female Rural Fire Service (RFS) firefighter walks through a burnt area near the Blue Mountains suburb of Blackheath
A female Rural Fire Service (RFS) firefighter walks through a burnt area near the Blue Mountains suburb of Blackheath Credit: REUTERS/David Gray

A spokesman for the Rural Fire Service said that 73 wildfires are still burning across the state and that 29 of these have not been contained.

Smoke-filled forest near the Blue Mountains suburb of Blackheath
Smoke-filled forest near the Blue Mountains suburb of Blackheath Credit: REUTERS/David Gray

He said that a blaze on the western edge of the M1 motorway had temporarily closed off traffic in one direction, and that it would take "many hours of work" to bring it under control.

A list of schools to be closed as a result of the wildfires will be published shortly, he added.

'Worst of the weather to come' as Australian fires rage

A firefighter tackles a blaze in New South Wales. Credit: RTV

Thousands of firefighters are continuing to battle dozens of wildfires raging in New South Wales as weather conditions are set to worsen.

There are 59 fires burning across the state, with 19 out of control, according to the Rural Fire Service (RFS)

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said: "We are entering what is typically the hottest and driest period of any given day.

"The temperatures are climbing and are expected to climb and maintain their peak throughout the coming hours. The worst of the weather is still to come."

Storm in Blue Mountains will 'increase fire danger'

Officials warned that a storm heading towards the fire front in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales would increase the fire danger.

The storm is expected to bring up to two millimetres of rain, lightening and strong winds.

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Commissioner: "Forecast for tomorrow worse than we have been talking about for last few days". #NSWRFS #nswfires

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Firefighter captures video of raging Australian wildfires

Firefighters battling the wildfires in New South Wales raced towards a national park that had caught ablaze, but were forced to retreat in the face of flames climbing higher than 100 feet.

This gripping video was shot by Ryan Taylor, who is a volunteer firefighter for Lake Munmorah Rural Fire Brigade, part of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

The NSW Rural Fire Service said lightning is moving across the state, although no significant rainfall is expected to help alleviate the wildfires.

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