Military explosives may have caused State Mining fires

EXPLOSIVES detonated during a military training activity could have started the State Mining fire near Lithgow last week. The fire continues to burn and has already destroyed a number of properties and has put hundreds of lives at risk.

The Department of Defence confirmed that it is investigating whether an explosive ordnance training session at Marangaroo Training Area is linked to the fire which started on the same day.

In today's searing conditions firefighters in New South Wales stuck to the onerous task of trying to stem the wrath of some of the most terrifying blazes seen in the state in more than four decades.

At last count there were 56 fires burning around the state, 12 of which were contained and although firefighters had some luck overnight in preventing spot fires from jumping a major road in the Blue Mountains, there has been little to celebrate with the stronger winds forecast for Wednesday expected to bring with it the biggest challenge yet.

Hundreds of people especially the residents of Bell will watch anxiously today with many more hundreds of thousands expected to be evacuated if conditions don't ease.

"We are expecting the potential for the series of these fires to come together, to extend right down Bells Line of Road," said Shane Fitzsimmons, the NSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner.

"They have the very real potential to go right out to the eastern end of the Hawkesbury, right down into the north-west area of Sydney including Richmond."

It is very possible that the evacuation of Katoomba and Leura, towns with considerable populations, could also eventuate.

Police in Port Stephens have charged an 11-year-old boy today (Monday) with starting two fires in the area. The allegation of the boy's mystifying act which destroyed some 5000 hectares and put a number of lives in danger, comes a day after a 14-year-old boy was refused bail after being charged with lighting a fire at Rutherford, just outside of Maitland in the Hunter Valley.

"It's awful to think, no matter the motivation, that we can have young people so reckless and so stupid participating in these sorts of activities," said Mr Fitzsimmons.

"It's sad to me that young people should actually not see the consequences of this sort of reckless behaviour."

Premier Barry O'Farrell declared a state of emergency across New South Wales on Sunday and for the next 30 days emergency services personnel will have the power to insist people leave an area and the right to enter or demolish buildings.

"If the choice is life or property, the choice clearly should be life," Mr O'Farrell said.

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