Investigators: Australian military responsible for massive wildfire

An explosives training exercise ignited a 180-square-mile blaze

Topics: Wildfire, Australia, Explosives, Natural Disasters, ,

Investigators: Australian military responsible for massive wildfireA firefighter hoses controls flames near houses at Bilpin 75km west of Sydney in Australia, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013. Authorities have warned that hotter weather and increased winds are expected and are preparing for the conditions to worsen. (Credit: AP/Rob Griffith)

In the past week, over 100 wildfires have ravaged New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, killing one man and destroying over 200 homes. The largest of those blazes, the Rural Fire Service announced, began at a Defense Department training area.

The blaze, which “was started as a result of live ordnance exercises,” engulfed over 180 square miles near Lithgow, west of Sydney. No one was injured or killed by the fire, which destroyed several homes, and evacuated residents of the community of Blue Mountains, which had been hit by several fires in the past week, were told late Wednesday night that they could return home.



But Blue Mountains’ mayor, Mark Greenhill, was upset to find out about the link between the fire and the Defense Department, which is still conducting its own investigation into the event.

“I would have hoped on a day like that — which was a dry day, a hot day, with the winds — the Australian military would have known it wouldn’t be a good time to be igniting,” Greenhill told the Australian Broadcasting Corp., according to the Associated Press.

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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