SYDNEY -- SYDNEY (AP) — A military training exercise ignited the largest of the wildfires that have ravaged Australia's most populous state over the past week, investigators said Wednesday.

More than 100 fires have killed one man and destroyed more than 200 homes in New South Wales state since Thursday.

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.

The fire has burned 47,000 hectares (180 square miles) and destroyed several houses, but no injuries or deaths have been reported in the blaze. It was downgraded from the highest emergency category on Wednesday.

The Defense Department declined to comment on the investigators' findings, but had earlier confirmed that an explosive ordnance training exercise was conducted Oct. 16. The Defense Department was also investigating any link between the exercise and the fire.

The revelation drew anger from Mark Greenhill, mayor of the community of Blue Mountains, which has been ravaged by several of the fires over the past week.

"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 wouldn't be a good time to be igniting," Greenhill told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell came to the military's defense.

"I want to ensure that this doesn't detract from the efforts that Defense have made over the past week in assisting the state's emergency services battle these fires," he told the Seven Network.

Meanwhile, winds that were fanning wildfires and showering embers on threatened communities eased late Wednesday, after scores of Blue Mountains residents evacuated their homes.

Residents were told they could return to their homes Wednesday night, as cool weather settled across the region and fears lifted that the fires could spread and threaten homes. There were no reports of property loss or injuries on Wednesday.

While many hours of firefighting are still to come, "the broader risk to a much larger, more widespread population has certainly eased," Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

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  • A firefighter hoses to control flames near houses at Bilpin, 75 kilometers (47 miles) west of Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

  • Lyndon Dunlop stands by his father as they inspect the damage to his grandparent's home of 41 years destroyed by bushfire on October 21, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

  • Smoke and ash from wildfires burning across the state of New South Wales blankets a cruise ship in Sydney Harbour on October 17, 2013. (GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A firefighter hoses to control flames near houses at Bilpin, 75 kilometers (47 miles) west of Sydney, Australia, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

  • Residents evacuate with some belongings following a nearby bushfire in Springwood in the Blue Mountains on October 23, 2013. (SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A helicopter drops water to douse bushfires along the Linksview Road near Faulconbridge in the Blue Mountains on October 23, 2013. (SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Firefighters get ready to handle the situation following a bushfire near Faulconbridge in the Blue Mountains on October 23, 2013. (SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Firefighters mop up and check for reflash after a firestorm swept through a property in Bilpin, 75 kilometers (47 miles) from Sydney, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. Scores of Australians evacuated their homes in mountains west of Sydney on Wednesday as intensifying winds fanned wildfires and grounded the helicopters that were fighting them. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

  • A burnig tree falls during a mop-up by firefighters after a firestorm swept through a property in Bilpin, 75 kilometers (47 miles) from Sydney, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

  • In this photo provided by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, smoke rises from a wildfire near Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. Winds that were fanning wildfires and showering embers on threatened communities eased late Wednesday, after scores of Australians evacuated their homes in mountains west of Sydney. (AP Photo/NSW Rural Fire Service)

  • Firefighters control flames during hazard reduction in Bilpin 75 kilometers (46 miles) from Sydney in Australia, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

  • Firefighters mop up after a firestorm swept through a property in Bilpin, 75 kilometers (47 miles) from Sydney, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

  • Firefighters control flames during hazard reduction in Bilpin 75 kilometers (46 miles) from Sydney in Australia, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

  • In this photo provided by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, smoke rises from a fire near Lithgow, west of Sydney, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/New South Wales Rural Fire Service)

  • In this photo provided by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service the remains of a structure are in a crumpled pile after a wildfire destroyed the building, at an unknown location in Australia, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/New South Wales Rural Fire Service,)

  • In this photo provided by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, smoke rises from a fire near Springwood, west of Sydney, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/New South Wales Rural Fire Service)

  • A general view of play during the Ryobi Cup cricket match between the South Australian Redbacks and the Western Australia Warriors at Drummoyne Oval on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

  • A general view of play as the skyline is shrouded in smoke during the Ryobi Cup match between the South Australian Redbacks and the Western Australia Warriors at Drummoyne Oval on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

  • Smoke and ash from wildfires burning across the state of New South Wales blankets Sydney Harbour in this photo taken from the Sydney Opera House on October 17, 2013. (GREG WOOD/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A general view of play during the Ryobi Cup cricket match between the South Australian Redbacks and the Western Australia Warriors at Drummoyne Oval on October 17, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

  • Prime Minister Tony Abbott attends a bushfire briefing with federal member for Macquarie Louise Markus, RFS incident controller David Jones and RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons on October 18, 2013 in Winmalee, Australia. (Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)