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Australia wildfires flare as military blamed, pilot killed

Global Times (2013-10-25 P07)
A water-bombing aircraft tackling newly flaring wildfires in Australia crashed Thursday, killing the pilot, as the military apologized for starting a huge blaze that has left residents living in fear.

Thousands of largely volunteer firefighters have been battling infernos for eight days across the state of New South Wales that have destroyed more than 200 homes, with the Blue Mountains region west of Sydney the focal point.

Cooler weather initially helped Thursday, but gusty winds saw two major blazes upgraded to the highest "emergency" level again, with authorities urging communities not to be complacent.

A pilot become the second person to die in the bushfire emergency when his fixed-wing aircraft went down in a remote area south of Sydney as it responded to a blaze near the town of Ulladulla.

An ambulance officer was winched into the rugged terrain where the crash happened and confirmed David Black, 43, was dead. He was unable to recover the body due to fires still burning in the area.

One of the biggest and fiercest infernos still alight, which has a perimeter of more than 300 kilometers and has ripped through 47,000 hectares of land, was started by the military, a fire service investigation found.

The huge blaze near the town of Lithgow, which flared again Thursday, was a major worry this week. The official investigation found it was started by exploding ordnance on a live firing range on Wednesday last week.

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