Two Homes Destroyed In NSW Bushfires As Firefighters Race Against The Clock
The blazes stretch from the Queensland border to Victoria, RFS says.
UPDATE AT 5PM THURSDAY:
Two homes were destroyed and another was damaged in Wednesday's fires, the Rural Fire Service has confirmed.
An initial assessment of fire affected areas across the state confirmed that two homes in Bega Valley were destroyed by fire, while a third in Shoalhaven was damaged.
A total of 16 outbuildings across both areas have also been destroyed, as favourable weather conditions provide some relief to firefighters.
It's a race against the clock, as firefighters battle to contain 79 blazes across the state before strong winds hit on Saturday.
Ben Shephard of the Rural Fire Services confirmed to ten daily that it was unlikely that all the fires will be contained before those strong winds hit.
"We'll be in very high fire danger come Saturday," he said.
Thirty-three of the fires across the state are uncontained. The focus right now is two fires burning in the north-east part of the state at Clarence Valley and Richmond Valley, which currently remain at Watch and Act.
A tanker has rolled injuring four NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers while they fought out of control bush fires.
The RFS said in a tweet the volunteers were hurt when a bush fire tanker rolled over near Taree overnight. The tanker was working on the Caparra fire on the Mid Coast when it rolled down a hill.
Four firefighters taken to hospital, one with suspected spinal injuries.
Firefighters are preparing for another day of windy conditions as they work to extinguish 79 fires burning along the New South Wales coast.
"I think firefighters working with aircraft today, working with machinery on the ground, will gain the upper hand on most of them, particularly the more troublesome ones," NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told ABC Breakfast.
There are currently 600 firefighters on the ground working to contain the fires, but the windy and dry conditions make the task more difficult as embers could be swept to other areas.
"We expect the winds to strengthen again as we come into Saturday as the next cold front moves across the state. The blustery winds that will be ahead of it will prove challenging," Fitzsimmons said.
Total fire bans remain in place for the greater Hunter area, the Sydney area and the Illawarra area. Local fire bans are also in place for the Queensland areas of Ipswich, Somerset, Lockyer, Logan, Scenic Rim and Gold Coast.
Emergency warnings were issued on Wednesday for fires near Ulladulla and North Nowra, with residents told it is "too late to leave".
The RFS issued an emergency alert about another fire, in the South East Forest National Park at Bemboka near Bega, late on Wednesday. Firefighters warned of very dangerous conditions with strong winds, with the fire 300 hectares in size as of 5pm.
The blaze at Mount Kingiman, near Ulladulla, which was more than 100 hectares in size, was downgraded to a Watch and Act alert just after 6pm on Wednesday.
Residents in the Woodstock area were advised to seek shelter in a solid structure as the fire approached, with those in Burrill Lake, Kings Point and south of Ulladulla urged to move north.
An evacuation centre was set up at the Ulladulla Civic Centre.
Further north, a fire is burning out of control between West Cambrewarra Road and the Princes Highway in North Nowra and threatening properties.
The Princes Highway was closed in both directions due to heavy smoke in the area, as the blaze moves east towards Bomaderry.
"It's right on them (properties) now," NSW RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said.
"It's impacting on homes in North Nowra as we speak. Our advice -- and the images show -- it's close to urban areas there."
The RFS said emergency phone messages have been sent to residents in the area who are advised to take shelter as the fire front approached.
Warm, dry conditions and strong winds are being felt across the region, with gusts of up to 140 kilometres per hour recorded at Nowra.
"Under these conditions, fires are uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast-moving," the RFS said.
"Embers will be blown up to six kilometres ahead of the fire, creating spot fires that will move quickly in different directions.
"These spot fires may threaten your home earlier than the predicted main fire front."
A Watch and Act warning have also been issued for a fast-moving grass fire near Jerrara, west of Kiama. The RFS said while the blaze is burning close to properties, crews are on scene to protect them.
Fire crews have been on high alert, after the entire state of New South Wales was last week declared as either "in drought" or "drought affected", bringing dry conditions.
Fire Season Outlook Not Good
Shane Fitzsimmons told ABC Breakfast on Thursday the outlook for the fire season is "not good" considering how early fires have started this year -- it is still winter.
"In my time I don't recall quite as many fires and the length and breadth of the fires" Fitzsimmons said.
"We've seen an early start to the fire season previously but this is pretty significant and particularly with total fire bans yesterday. You've got to go back a good decade or more before you find a precedent."
He said with the already dire drought conditions, hotter temperatures and lack of rain conditions are likely to worsen as summer hits.
"So there's no meaningful outlook for any rain and we know, you can just imagine, what it would have been like yesterday if we add another 15 or 20 degrees to the occasion, which is what we're going to expect as we head into spring and summer and get into the peak of summer this season," he said,.
"So it's shaping up to be a difficult fire season."