Explosives training by Australia's defence department sparked the largest of the wildfires currently raging on the outskirts of Sydney, an investigation has found.
As the crisis in Australia's east entered its eighth day, the defence department said it was aware of the finding but would only confirm that ordinance training took place at the site, Marrangaroo, on the day the fire began. It said it would cooperate fully with investigators and was conducting its own internal investigation.
The fire, which began north of the Blue Mountains on defence department land last Wednesday, has burned nearly 119,000 acres and destroyed three homes.
As of yesterday evening, its perimeter stood at more than 215 miles as some 260 firefighters battled to stop it from over-running several small towns in the Blue Mountains area. Around 60 fires were still burning across New South Wales state in total.
In the Blue Mountains town of Springwood, local residents said they had no plan to leave, despite fire services saying they should evacuate.
Rural Fire Service personnel south of Springwood told local residents they should flee if they had no vital need to be there, although they said there was no large-scale evacuation in effect.
Local grocer Cathy Torcasio (38) had no plan to leave. The resident of the fire-ravaged Springwood suburb of Faulconbridge was at work yesterday when the emergency was declared.
Her husband and son were at home filling gutters and bins with water and preparing for the worst. "It all depends on the wind. You've just got to wait and see," she said. "I have a fire plan. If I see a fire, run."
Erika Watson (26) evacuated her property in Blackheath near the back-burning containment line for the northern Blue Mountains fire.
"We started at the front fence, cutting back trees, putting out smouldering fires in the soil, getting rid of burnt irrigation and moving back through the property," Ms Watson said.
Meanwhile, in Canberra, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott hit out at Christiana Figueres, the UN climate chief, who claimed that the bush fires showed the world was "already paying the price of carbon" and Australia would pay for abolishing the country's carbon pricing system.
Mr Abbott, who once dismissed evidence of climate change as "absolute crap", accused Ms Figueres of "talking through her hat".
"Climate change is real and we should take strong action against it," Mr Abbott said. "But these fires are certainly not a function of climate change, they are just a function of life in Australia."
Mr Abbott has attracted a mix of acclaim and criticism through his active involvement in the fire-fighting efforts, with some labelling him opportunistic while others point out he has been a rural fire service volunteer for more than a decade. (© Daily Telegraph, London)