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Wildfire Sparked by Army Explosives Training, Commissioner Says

A wildfire that destroyed huge tracts of bushland west of Sydney threatening lives and homes was sparked by the army carrying out explosives training, authorities said.

The State Mine blaze in the Blue Mountains region was caused by “ordnance detonation on a live firing range,” New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters today. The blaze has burnt through more than 47,000 hectares (116,000 acres) of forest in the Blue Mountains region, destroying at least 10 homes and buildings, according to the fire service.

The Defense Force said in a statement it was cooperating with police and was conducting its own inquiry into the training exercise at the Marrangaroo Army Range on Oct. 16, the same day the fire started.

More than 200 homes have been destroyed in bushfires in Australia’s most-populous state since last week, with about 120,000 hectares of forests scorched, according to the Rural Fire Service. Bushfire property loss is expected to be more than A$128 million ($123 million) with 987 claims received, the Insurance Council of Australia said yesterday in a posting on Twitter.

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