24 Oct 2013

Firefighting pilot killed in NSW crash

10:32 pm on 24 October 2013

A pilot is dead after his waterbombing plane crashed while he was fighting a blaze in southern New South Wales.

Australia's Rural Fire Service says pilot David Black, 43, was killed when his Dromader aircraft went down west of the town of Ulladulla on Thursday morning. The service believes a wing snapped off the plane before it crashed, igniting another fire.

Firefighters take a break from their intense efforts.

Firefighters take a break from their intense efforts. Photo: AAP

Despite milder conditions, emergency warnings have been issued for the State Mine fire near Lithgow and the blaze at Mount Victoria - both in the Blue Mountains, the ABC reports.

The Rural Fire Service warned residents in fire-affected areas not to become complacent. Fifty-five fires are still burning around the state on Thursday.

Inspector Andrew Luke from the Rural Fire Service told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme that there was still a lot of hard work ahead for the fire-fighters, who are being helped by crews from other states and overseas.

Some residents have been allowed to return to their homes in the Blue Mountains, but authorities say vigilance is still required.

Defence explosions sparked fire

An investigation has revealed that the biggest of the bushfires ripping through New South Wales was caused by explosive devices on a Defence Department range. The Acting Chief of the Defence Force apologised on Thursday.

The State Mine fire near Lithgow has destroyed more than 47,000 hectares of the Blue Mountains and at least three homes since it began on 16 October. A total fire ban was declared the next day. At one stage, the fire had a perimeter of more than 300km.

A Rural Fire Service spokesperson has confirmed that the original blaze was started on a Defence Department range, sparked by explosive devices, the ABC reports.

The Rural Fire Service investigation has been carried out with the help of police. The Defence Department has also been investigating.

The department has released a statement saying it is aware of the RFS view of the cause of the fire and is continuing to co-operate fully with NSW authorities.

The fire was merged with the nearby Mount Victoria blaze on Tuesday and hundreds of resources are committed to fight it.

Fires and climate change linked

Former American vice-president Al Gore says there is a proven link between climate change and bushfires.

On Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said fire is a part of the Australian experience and not linked to climate change.

However, Mr Gore, who won a Nobel peace prize for his work on the subject, says the science shows clearly that when the temperature goes up, and vegetation and soils dry out, wildfires become more pervasive and more dangerous.

He says a price should be put on carbon, but powerful special-interest groups are preventing governments around the world from taking steps like that.

Mr Gore says it reminds him of how tobacco companies persuaded politicians for decades that there was absolutely no connection between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer.