25 Oct 2013

NSW firefighters gaining upper hand

12:32 pm on 25 October 2013

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) is continuing to gain the upper hand in the battle against bushfires in the Blue Mountains, but warns it could take weeks to put them all out.

On Thursday night fire crews again worked through the night to strengthen containment lines. They have also been constructing lines that can be burnt off if the fire flares up again.

A total of 57 fires are burning around the state, the ABC reports; 20 of them are uncontained.

Watch-and-act orders remain in place for the three fires burning west of Sydney - near Lithgow, Mt Victoria and Springwood.

Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has described the death of pilot David Black as a "huge tragedy". Mr Black, 43, died when his water-bombing plane crashed while fighting a fire at Wirritin, in Budawang National Park.

The RFS says firefighters are making progress with their aggressive approach to back-burning around the State Mine (Lithgow) fire. The Defence Department has apologised for causing that fire by its use of explosives during a weapons training exercise last week. The federal government could face legal action if the department is found to have acted carelessly.

The government has also found that the vast majority of burnt-out houses in the Blue Mountains have potentially high risk of asbestos contamination and is posting warning notices on them.

NZ firefighters not needed

The New Zealand Fire Service says New Zealand firefighters are not needed in New South Wales.

National rural fire officer Murray Dudfield says state officials have assessed what they will need over the next fortnight and are comfortable they can manage without New Zealand assistance.

He says they appreciated the offer of support and will reconsider it if the situation changes.