The largest telescope facility in Australia and at least 14 properties have been damaged by the fires affecting the southeastern portion of the country, and one firefighter has died battling the blazes, local media reported Monday.

Police believe that the 60-year-old fireman died of natural causes while working about 3 kilometers (2 miles) from active fires on the island of Tasmania.

The fire burning in Warrumbungle National Park in the state of New South Wales partially destroyed the installation at the Siding Spring Observatory, completely burned 14 properties and 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres) of land, forcing authorities to evacuate about 100 local residents on Sunday night.

The observatory, managed by Australian National Univesity, was built in the Warrumbungle mountain range, some 500 kilometers (310 miles) northwest of Sydney, due to the altitude, low humidity and clean air there.

ANU's acting vice-chancellor, Erik Lithander, told ABC radio that the fire destroyed five buildings at Siding Spring, although apparently the telescopes there are still intact.

New South Wales, where some 170 wildfires are burning, is one of the areas most seriously affected by the high temperatures and strong winds that have fostered huge forest fires.

Last Monday, Australia set a record by registering an average temperature of 40.33 C (104.6 F). EFE