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(generated from captions) fire, the biggest of the fires known as the Lithgow or the burned
State Mine fire, which has burned across hundreds of kilometres and destroyed homes, threatened hundreds more. It was at the centre of today's massive bushfire efforts. A huge amount of resources has been thrown into fighting that fire over the past week, day and night, and again.
it threatened many homes today again. Now, no doubt the Defence department will have many questions to answer this. We have heard from them tonight and, interestingly, a spokeswoman says that Defence is running its own investigation into what started found
this fire and it hasn't yet found enough evidence to show that there are link s, definitively, between this explosives training and fire, so no doubt there will be a lot of questions to answer as this emergency fades and attention turns to that. No doubt. Sean, you've spent an enormous amount of time in this area over the last week. There must be an extraordinary sense of relief there this evening? Look, certainly I would call it still a tentative sense of relief. I've spoken to a lot of locals here tonight who've fled as the bushfire emergency really flared right behind Lot of the homes here people were told to take shelter or leave and a lot of people took note of that and did. They say they're still not counting their chickens even though change
we're feeling a southwesterly change here, temperatures have really dropped. It's almost a little bit chilly but locals say they won't be calm until the fires are well and truly out.Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop, thanks for that update. That's be
the program for tonight. We'll be back at the same time
tomorrow but for now, Captions by CSI Australia

This Program is Captioned Live.Tonight - the bushfire emergency in NSW eases but high-level warnings remain in place across the State.And we need to remind ourselves that we've still got a long way to go as we look down the coming months into summer.Safe to return home, Blue Mountains residents relieved but fire authorities warn the battle is not yet over.And Defence at fault. Investigations reveal the biggest fire near started on an explosives range. Live across Australia, this is ABC News 24, hello, I'm Andrew Geoghegan, thanks for joining us. The bushfire crisis in NSW, Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury region has eased but authorities warn that the situation remains dangerous and dynamic. Let's go straight to Scott Bevan who is at Dudley in the Lake Macquarie area near Newcastle where there's still an emergency warning in place for an uncontained fire and Scott, that fire where you are has burnt out around 51 from
hectares and there are reports from the Rural Fire Service that spot fires are occurring there? Well Andrew, the bush is mighty close to the houses and that's normally a blessing of this beautiful coastal community, right beside the sea But
here, just south of Newcastle. But what's a blessing most of the time for the residents of Dudley is tonight a cause concern because but a couple of hundred metres away from the bush are the houses. And in person
fact I will get the camera person to push you can see the lights here, some of the appliances, a couple of dozen appliances are up here, there's a row of backyards,
houses just there and in the backyards, beyond that, is bush and bush that the fire services are worried about could burn. Now as well as the couple of dozen appliances working away, residents have been helping out, helps themselvesing out, taking to their yards and onto their roofs with hoses and one of those people who has been doing that this afternoon and into the evening is a long-time resident, a resident of Dudley for 35 years Rodney Prout and he joins me now. Rodney, you have seen bushfires before.Yes, we. Have How much concern is this one for you?This one is not as bad as one we had 15 years ago where the embers came up over the road and were falling on all the houses.And what about what you've been seeing here in regard to embers?We were a bit worried about it because we were starting to come there and as I say, we got on the and we watered the roof and gutters and so forth just to be safe in that regard. In regard to the winds, at the moment it seems quite erratic, at times gusting, what sort of winds worry you given that the fire is down here and your house is over here?If the westerly winds are a real worry to us because the fires can start down the bottom of the hill and come straight up and the embers come over the road and that's when the big problem is. While it looks like the westerly winds have stopped and it's turned around to the south-east now.This afternoon just how quickly did this blaze start?Very, very quickly. I was just doing some work in yard and the wife came home and said there's a fire and before we even got out the back gate we could see the smoke and so forthcoming up. It started extremely quickly.Did you consider evacuating?No, while we've got the reservoir here, this area of cut grass it's not we've too bad. The only problem this too bad. The only problem we is from the embers coming over the top of us. How are you spending tonight?We've got power at the moment.We're going to have to jump out of that interview because the Rural Fire Service is giving us headquarters
an update. Let's go to the headquarters now.Emergency warning alert level, that is the fire that started up at Gateshead that's burnt in a southeasterly direction down between Dudley and Headhead. It is still a very active fire. changes
It's still a fire prone to wind changes and movements because it's right along the coast. We're particularly conscious of a southeasterly influence that may occur over coming hours. We need people in that area to remain particularly vigilant as fire fighters seek to contain that fire and they will work very aggressively in behind properties, particularly around Head - Redhead and trying to make a strategy around the trail networks. We have 6 other fires that are watch and act because the situation is still quite die ma'am - di Namic. indicated earlier in the Blue Mountains area along the Great Western Highway, it was safe to return home albeit there would probably be a fair bit of smoke around, particularly in the lower end of the Blue Mountains, but the threat, or potential threat to the communities for the moment had eased. Similarly, in my discussions most recently with the incident controller for the areas along the Bells Line of Road, those people that chose to leave early today and made their way down to Richmond somewhere else, it is now OK to head home as well. Being very still a lot of fire activity to the northern side of the Bells Line of Road particularly. There are traffic management arrange ments in place with roadblocks and clearance as has been the case for some time now. But it is OK to make your way home. But again, be very mindful of the amount of smoke, to
particularly an active fire off to the northern end of the Bells Line of Road right throughout there. I also indicated earlier that our plan is to reopen as many schools possible tomorrow. We do want people to realise that for large areas the fire threat eased. We are only planning to close schools in conjunction with public schools, Catholic schools and independent schools, there are a number of schools that will be closed in the areas considered most at risk and a full list of schools is available on our website and the Department of Education's website. We do need to be crystal clear here, there across the Blue
is still a lot of fire ground across the Blue Mountains area that's very active. As of fact, tonight once the winds start to moderate to a point where it is safe to do so, there's about another 15 to 20 kilometres of backburning that will be undertaken. They will be seeking to strengthen operations that were north of the community of Blackheath down into the Grose River and north of the Grose River back up towards the Bells Line of Road. It's a critical backburn that needs to be undertaken with a view to getting as much depth as possible, particularly the escarpment country back up towards Bells Line of Road before we see the on set of these very strong, gusty, southwesterly winds that are expected right across the Blue Mountains and Greater Sydney areas tomorrow. We are expecting those winds to be very strong and particularly dry. Whilst the temperature will moderate right down into the 20s, a welcome relief to what we saw today, they still will be strong. We're talking 45, 50 ks gusting to 70 to 90km/h across the higher altitudes. It's going to be particularly problematic for the fire fighters because there's no moisture in this change and it's going to be a very dry air. 10 to humidity, that's dry, with the winds and the amount of fire activity that's throughout this afternoon that's going to present some challenges for fire fighters. If that fire does not remain contained and we'll be assessing that tomorrow night and into tomorrow morning and throughout the day, we can actually expect to see real potential for communities along Bells Line of Road, the ones that have been subject to pressure from fire bearing down from the north over recent days. We can actually see a very real potential for the fire to run along Bells Line Road, this time along the road Bells and south to a lot of these communities. So communities such as Mount Tomah, Mount Wilson, Berambing, the areas west of Bilpin we'll be watching them very closely tomorrow in relation to the burning that's got to go in tonight, the active fire that's burning in that country that we need to try to consolidate and stop it progressing under predominantly southerly influence that's around for the next 3 or 4 days. As I mentioned earlier, there is still a deal of fire activity down on the fire

I think they would welcome a rest. As we speak fire fighters are still working very
actively with local community members in and around the Hartley Vale area, along the I
Bells Line of Road area and as I say, we're going to continue working on these fires for days and days and days.In light of this should there be changes to when the Defence Department can carry out these exercises and under which conditions? You need to have a chat with the Defence about all these sorts of things. My focus is really right now on trying with fires, no matter how they start, no matter where they start.Does the recommendations after investigate this? We always take an interest in investigations. We always take an interest in learning from fires and events so we can incorporate that into our strategies and into our policies, into our programs. Any fire that starts develops, we will learn all these operations and we'll continue to learn from fires that occur right throughout this fire season. I suspect the Blue Mountains fires, the Lithgow fires, the fires up on no different
the Central Coast they will be no different in terms of our as a result of
focus to want to learn lessons as a result of what we did with those fires and what we were fires.Any danger
dealt with in relation to those fires.Any danger we might be under estimate ing tomorrow? I think there's always a that because we got through a afford
day like today we really cannot afford to become complacent. There is literally kilometres of
and kilometres and kilometres of active fire edge, there is at least 15 kilometres of very aggressive backburning theaz going entente with hundreds of upper hand
fire fighters trying to get the upper hand on consolidating as There
many of these fire grounds. There is a very real risk to many communities tomorrow, not
in the same order as today but that's perspective. If your these fires.
home is in the past of any of these fires. If your home is in close proximity to any of these fire grounds then clearly you've got a personal interest and you are clearly going to be concerned about risk. The rest of us can't afford to drop the terms of remain ing vigilant and remaining focused and having care and for all those working out on these fire grounds and for all those people that find themselveses in the path of these fires.Your operation you feel there's alet of the
cooperation with Defence and the Army, have you spoken to people out in the field or this
higher up in the Defence about this incident? Have you spoken personally with people Defence? I speak with people in Defence all day every day as you've seen in this last week. I made a decision today to confirm the investigation report as we do with every other fire. Whether that's trees bringing down powerlines, whether it's someone lighting a fire, whether it's a car that goes off the side of the road. My job is simply to be using our fire investigator, how did this fire start, where did the fire start and let people know. I spoke to the Department of Defence about it. I've got to tell you it was from very public comments early on that they were open and said, "We may have started this and we'll work with the authorities." That's what they're doing. I don't think anyone's shying away from how this fire started. What we did do was an investigation to confirm the speculation that was early on last Wednesday.There was no efforts from the Defence Department to request the RFS not to release this information today, we've continually tried to ask them this afternoon and they're saying their investigation is ongoing? Not at all. The Defence has no say over whether I release information about the determination of one of our fire investigations, nor does anybody else. Through the investigation did you find anything that a was done out the ordinary or out of was simply
regulations? Our investigation was simply a gathering of the facts. Where did the fire start, how did it start, end of story. Thank you.That is Shane Fitzsimmons, the Commissioner of Service speaking in Sydney with an update of the fire situation in NSW. Just to reiterate what he had to say, there is one emergency warning in place for a fire, the Gateshead fire, that's at Lake Macquarie district. And 6 other fires are watch and act in other areas of the including the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury region schools, a
he went onto say just as far as schools, a number of were closed today and in fact tomorrow some will remain closed. 26 in all , both in the Blue Mountains, the Hawkesbury and in Penrith. And as far as the forecast is concerned, he says although there will cooler conditions tomorrow there will be very strong and dry winds and no meaningful rain forecast.Now our reporter Claire Aird is at string wood in the Blue Mountains where a 3,500 hectare fire is now controlled. She joins us and Claire that fire there is a watch and act, just bring us up to date with what's happening where you are? That's right, Andrew, so this fire that was an emergency alert today has now been downgraded to a watchened act. It's very quiet here tonight in Faulconbridge where we are in the Springwood area of that fire here in the Blue Mountains. Now I've noticed that a number residents are just starting to come out and have a around. They've either been locked down in their preparing to defend their homes or many had actually left today when the emergency warning out. Flying overhead there were around 5 or 6 choppers waterbombing and what you can't see, but I can tell you, is that just around 3 kilometres from here is actually the Blue Mountains National Park. So many homes along these streets and cul-de-sacs drop national park. An extensive effort tonight is going backburning. Whilst you can't hear the choppers anymore there is a number of fire fighters down in that Blue Mountains ahead of
national park doing backburning ahead of the changing conditions tomorrow. Now we can already feel that the weather here has cooled, the air has cooled and there's not those blustery conditions that we saw earlier today, winds of up to 80km/h. But as you heard the Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons saying there, the threat is not over. Now, the southeasterlies that will be blowing in tomorrow will move that threat from the Springwood area where we are down towards Yarramundi, the Hawkesbury area and Richmond so go.Claire,
there's still a way to go.Claire, just give us a sense of what people are feeling there as far as that weather change is concerned? Is there a palpable relief? Andrew, it's interesting you ask the question. I was actually just speaking to a and I said, you know, well my best wishes to you now that that's
this fire threat has passed, that's wonderful news and said look, I'll be happy when I can no longer see this of backburning that's happening
just nearby. Because for residents here, they know that all too soon the conditions moments
change, that it only takes moments for a fire which is being contained to be not contained anymore more. It only takes a moment for embers to rain down on somebody's house and fire, as we know, is in discriminate. You saw 200 homes lost in this area, just not even a week ago. And in some of those streets we saw gone and
that most of the houses were gone and that just one or two remained. So whilst there is some sense of relief, residents here know that that change all too soon.And is
Claire, the Rural Fire Service is saying that people return to some
they do warn that there may be some road closures, which will prevent people from returning to their homes.That's right, Andrew. So the Bells Road, which is a small distance from where we are still remains closed. The Greater Western residents
Highway is open tonight. Now homes today
residents who evacuated their homes today can come back although there still are some road closures just about 200 metres from where we are we know that there's still a police block only letting fire trucks in. So if people thinking of returning to their homes tonight it's best that they check live traffic updates online or listen to their local radio to find out just which streets are closed and which are open and of course we also know that a number of public schools, high schools, Catholic schools, all sorts of schools, including ones for little ones, will be closed tomorrow. That includes where we are here, the Springwood High School, where we are at There's a number of high schools around the Mount Victoria area, Winmalee that are closed ed a again people are check online for updates.Claire Aird, thank you. Let's go to our David Cody who is at Mount Victoria. And David, there has been a development in the cause of one of those devastating fires? Yes, Andrew. The State Mine fire at Lithgow, as you were hearing the Rural Fire Fitzsimmons
Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons saying a little that an army ordinance
earlier, it has been confirmed a training range was responsible for that fire which has burned through such a vast area of bushland. Last check it was something like hectares. So the determination was it was an ordinance that caused that and that was on the Wednesday before the devastating fires that we saw further down the Blue Mountains. So that's been confirmed. there
with the situation as it stands there tonight. Clearly as Claire was saying, the weather has eased as far as the winds and the tomp tours are concerned. What effect is that having on the fire where you are?I'm a bit further west of Mountains
Clare in the upper Blue Mountains and it's getting quite chilly here. The southerly winds have picked up. It's still quite blustery. The good news, these fires around here and the Mount Victoria fire is that it didn't run under the worst of the conditions and this afternoon. It importantly didn't get into the Grose Valley which I can see off in the distance here. The fear was if it did get into the Grose Valley and made a big run towards the east, then the communities that kind of fringe the Grose at risk. So all day, the crews them coming
here and I've been watching them coming and going all day, have been tense, particularly between the 2 and 5pm period.