SYDNEY - The Australian military said Saturday it was investigating whether a major bushfire was linked to an explosives training exercise, as firefighters battled blazes that have destroyed or damaged 300 homes.
The Rural Fire Service said some 85 fires were burning across New South Wales state, with about 20 of them uncontained despite Saturday's cooler weather conditions.
Among the major fires was one burning between the towns of Lithgow and Bilpin some 80 kilometres (50 miles) northwest of Sydney, which intensified after burning through 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) and reportedly destroying some properties.
The Australian Defence Force said it was investigating the circumstances of the fire near Lithgow, which began on defence land.
"The fire started on 16 October, the same day that Defence personnel were conducting an explosive ordnance training activity," it said in a statement.
"Defence is investigating if the two events are linked.
"Our thoughts are with those who have lost property or whose property is threatened by these devastating fires," it added.
Firefighters are battling bushfires across New South Wales, which could take weeks to fully overcome, particularly with more hot and gusty weather forecast for as soon as Sunday.
One man has already died while trying to protect his home on the Central Coast north of Sydney, possibly succumbing to a heart attack, but authorities are hopeful no other people are unaccounted for in the blazes.