Australia blaze stretches 190 miles

CANBERRA, Australia — Firefighters battling some of the most destructive wildfires to ever strike Australia’s most populous state were focusing on a major blaze Sunday 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 state.

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 on Sunday, fire service spokesman Matt Sun said.

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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.

Sun said temperatures in the fire zone on Sunday exceeded 77 degrees, with winds reaching 12 miles per hour and humidity dropping to 30 percent. Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the weather was forecast to deteriorate further over Monday and Tuesday.

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

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


Sun said the cause of the fire was also under investigation by fire authorities.

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

Associated Press