Pilot dies in plane crash while fighting Australia bush fires

AOL Travel

A pilot has died after his plane crashed while battling fires raging through New South Wales in Australia.

The water-bombing plane crashed near Ulladulla, 170 miles southwest of Sydney, into the Budawang National Park, a wilderness area popular with hikers and campers.

Emergency officials confirmed the 43-year-old man died and that his family has been informed.

According to Reuters, RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, said: "It's a tragedy for the fire-fighting community."

NSW Police Superintendent Joe Cassar said authorities were attempting to retrieve the body but were being "challenged by weather conditions and nearby fire".

Thousands of firefighters have been tackling more than 60 bush fires in NSW for days following extremely high temperatures.

The famous Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney, has been the worst hit area, with many homes destroyed and residents evacuated.

This largest of blazes is now thought to have been started accidentally after a live firing exercise on Army land.

Acting Defence Minister George Brandis offered an apology, and, according to the BBC, said the military "take this issue very seriously and continue to fully co-operate with the NSW authorities, including the NSW Police, who are investigating the fire".

Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill told the BBC: "I would have hoped on a day like that which was a dry day, a hot day, with the winds, the Australian military would have known it wasn't a good time to be igniting."

Since the fires started last Thursday, they have burned through tens of thousands of acres of land, and destroyed more than 200 homes. One man died of a heart attack while trying to save his home.

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