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Fears mount that blazes in New South Wales may merge into one 'mega-fire'

Worsening weather conditions could push two separate fires towards more populated areas

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 October, 2013, 9:45am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 October, 2013, 5:48pm
 

Firefighters are racing to tame an enormous blaze in southeastern Australia, as officials warn it could merge with others to create a "mega-fire" if weather conditions worsen.

Crews have been battling fires that flared in high winds and searing heat across the state of New South Wales last week. More than 200 homes have so far destroyed been destroyed and many others damaged.

A boy aged 15 was charged yesterday with "intentionally causing fire" over a blaze in New South Wales last week.

While dozens of blazes have been contained, 58 were still alight and 14 of them were out of control, enveloping Sydney in a thick white smoke haze that prompted warnings for people to stay indoors and avoid exercise.

The main concern yesterday was near the town of Lithgow, west of Sydney, where a huge fire that has already burned nearly 40,000 hectares was threatening the communities of Bilpin, Bell, Clarence and Dargan.

Officials fear intensifying heat and winds today and tomorrow could push it into another blaze at nearby Mount Victoria in the Blue Mountains and then move towards the populated areas of Katoomba and Leura.

"I don't think I've ever used the word mega-fire," said New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. "But the reality is that the modelling indicates that there's every likelihood that in the forecast weather conditions that these two fires, particularly up in the back end of the mountains, will merge at some point."

Firefighters spent the night and much of yesterday creating containment lines by burning off brush to deprive fires of fuel and thus try to prevent such an event, ahead of a predicted deterioration in weather conditions.

Another major fire in the Blue Mountains escalated to the emergency declaration level.

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