NSW bushfires: Aircraft crashes

A firefighter looks on as air crane Elvis drops water at the Linksview Rd fire near Faulconbridge. Photo / AAP
A firefighter looks on as air crane Elvis drops water at the Linksview Rd fire near Faulconbridge. Photo / AAP

An airplane pilot fighting the New South Wales bushfires had died after his aircraft crashed in the Shoalhaven area.

The man, a father and husband, was from Trangie.

The crash had caused "significant damage to the aircraft'', which was fighting fires in the Wirritin Mountains at the time of the accident.

"This sort of collision resulted in significant damage to the aircraft but we haven't been given specifics,'' Supt Cassar said.

He said it was "far too dangerous'' to send any personnel down there to retrieve the pilot at the moment.

Police have contacted the man's family but said they weren't able to disclose any more details of his identity until a coronial report was done.

Supt Cassar was unable to confirm whether the pilot was a contractor or a Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteer.

The plane's crash caused a fire near the larger fire, which was put out.

The man was aged 43 and was from central NSW, he said.

Ambulance officers had to be taken to the crash site by helicopter because of the terrain and weather conditions.

"We are trying to recover the pilot from the scene but are being challenged by weather conditions and nearby fire,'' he told reporters in Nowra.

The fixed wing aircraft went down in a remote area of Budawang National Park west of Ulladulla just after 10am (AEDT) today.

The ABC reports that a wing snapped off the 802 waterbomber before the crash.

The South Coast Register says the plane had been responding to the Wirritin fire in the national park.

The NSW National Parks website describes Budawang National Park as rugged and isolated, full of steep mountainsides and tall moist forests.

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The major wildfire threat has now passed, as cooler temperatures and calm winds prevail and hundreds of residents return to homes they had evacuated earlier.

Fire officials defended Australia's defence department today after investigators revealed a military training exercise ignited the largest of the wildfires that have torn across the nation's most populous state over the past week.

NSW Rural Fire Service crews mop up an area after stopping a fire from impacting on a property at Bilpin, in the Blue Mountains. Photo / AAP
NSW Rural Fire Service crews mop up an area after stopping a fire from impacting on a property at Bilpin, in the Blue Mountains. Photo / AAP

The Rural Fire Service said that one of the more than 100 fires that have burned since last week began at a Defence Department training area as a result of "live ordnance exercises". The fire it sparked near the city of Lithgow, west of Sydney, has burned 47,000 hectares and destroyed several houses, but no injuries or deaths were reported in the blaze.

In a statement, Acting Defense Minister George Brandis said the military was cooperating with investigators.

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Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the defence department's actions were obviously an accident.

"It wasn't deliberate; it was a side effect of a routine activity, it would appear, and clearly there was no intention to see fire start up and run as a result of that activity," Fitzsimmons said. "There is no conspiracy here."

The fires have killed one man and destroyed more than 200 homes in New South Wales state over the past week. Sixty-five fires were still burning today, with 24 out of control, though all emergency warnings had been lifted.

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- AAP, AP

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