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Australia’s Military Accidentally Set the Country on Fire

Australia's largest wildfire is the result of a weapons test gone awry

smithsonian.com

Fire in Australia last week. Photo: Alan

Over the past week a huge fire swept through Australian’s New South Wales torching 180 square miles of land and burning down a handful of homes. The fire is the largest currently burning in Australia (and that’s saying something), and it was started, says Stars and Stripes, by Australia’s military. Whoops.

Fire investigators found that a massive fire near the city of Lithgow, west of Sydney, began Oct. 16 at a nearby Defense Department training area, and that the blaze “was started as a result of live ordnance exercises” at the army range, the Rural Fire Service said in a statement.

Even without the military’s blunder, though, fire season is in full, threatening swing in Australia, especially around Sydney, where more than 200 homes have been torched in the past week. Fortunately, the expected hot, dry conditions that were setting today up to be another awful fire day in Australia didn’t develop, says Reuters, giving the firefighters a chance to get some of the fires under control, and letting some of the thousands of people who had been urged to evacuated return home.

Fires, outlined in red, as of Monday. Photo: NASA Earth Observatory / Aqua – MODIS

More from Smithsonian.com:

Australia is Burning, And It’s Only Going to Get Worse as the World Warms
Fire Tornado, Fire Devil, Whatever—Just Look at This Swirling Column of Fire

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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