State of emergency declared in Australia’s New South Wales as bush fires rage


(EDITORS NOTE: Image was created with a smartphone.) A general view of the Sydney CBD shrouded in smoke haze is seen on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. Sydney is shrouded in a haze of smoke as brushfires rage in the western Sydney suburbs of Springwood, Winmalee and Lithgow.


Cassie Trotter

Australian officials have declared a state of emergency in the state of New South Wales as wildfires near Sydney are predicted to worsen over the next few days.

High temperatures and strong winds are expected to intensify dozens of bush fires raging in the Blue Mountains that have already burned more than 250,000 acres.

The fires have destroyed 200 homes and left one man dead, apparently of a heart attack he suffered while trying to save his house. As of Sunday, 14 fires were still burning out of control.

State officials say these are most dangerous wildfires in the region in 40 years, and could threaten Sydney next week if conditions deteriorate.

The state of emergency declaration gives firefighters “the right to order the public to leave or to enter an area, the right to shore up or demolish a building and of course it also prevents people from disobeying an order given under these powers," New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell said Sunday.

Fire officials are investigating whether one of the fires was started by explosives used in an Australian military exercise conducted near the town of Lithgow on Wednesday.

Officials have determined that two other fires were started by power lines blown around by strong winds.