UPDATE: Bushfires Spread, Defence Force Admits It May Have Started A Fire And A Message From The Pope

Getty/ Lisa Maree Williams

Firefighters continue to battle the fatal NSW bushfires which have intensified this afternoon and threaten the towns near Lithgow and Springwood, west of Sydney’s Blue Mountains.

The AAP reports 20 properties could be lost in the blaze near Bell, along with the Springwood Hospital which is also being evacuated ahead of the warning that conditions could worsen later today.

The Rural Fire Service says the fire, which has burnt through 30,000 hectares, is threatening the townships of Bell, Dargan, Berambing and Bilpin where residents have been advised the alert is now an emergency warning.

The development has prompted the Department of Defence to admit it may be responsible for starting a fire near Lithgow.

The Defence says an explosive training activity at the Marangaroo Training Area may be “linked” to the fire outside Lithgow and that it will work with the NSW Rural Fire Service in the investigation, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

This morning’s calmer conditions offered little respite for the RFS, with deputy commissioner Rob Rogers saying warmer temperatures on Sunday and strengthening winds on Monday will just fuel with blaze.

“In the absence of rain, these fires will just keep burning and they’re just going to run hard,” Rogers told SMH.

News of the disaster has reached the Pope who today sent a message of support those affected, saying “He prays extensively for those who have died and for those who have lost their homes and workplaces, as well as for the numerous personnel working to combat the fires.”

83 fires are still burning across the state, 19 of which are uncontained. Authorities believe so far 193 homes have been destroyed and another 109 damaged in the Springwood and Winmalee areas.

The SMH and News.com have more.

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