Firefighter Fighting For His Life As Homes Engulfed In NSW
A 66-year-old volunteer firefighter has suffered serious burns to his entire body and six homes are believed lost as NSW fire crews battle almost 20 uncontained bush and grass fires.
Tenterfield local Neville Smith's hands, arm, legs, back, face and airways were burned on Friday while he and a colleague fought the Mount Mackenzie Road fire, which had burned more than 3500 hectares south of the Tenterfield township by Saturday afternoon.
He was stabilised at the local hospital, intubated and then flown to Royal Brisbane Hospital, where he remains in a critical-but-stable condition.
"He is expected to remain in the intensive care unit for some time," RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters on Saturday.
"We are working closely with his immediate family, colleagues and friends."
The truck he was in was destroyed by fire but his colleague was unharmed.
"It is a sobering reminder how dangerous and volatile these firegrounds are and particularly given the underlying drought conditions and the dryness in the vegetation," he said.
Some 60 fires remain burning across the state, 19 of which are uncontrolled.
Most of the activity is in the state's north, though an emergency warning - the sixth issued since Friday morning - has been issued for a south coast blaze.
The RFS said strong winds were helping the new blaze, near Cobargo in the Bega Valley area, move quickly east.
Emergency warnings are also in place for blazes in northern NSW - at Drake in the Tenterfield region and at Bees Nest near Armidale.
Up to six homes have been reported destroyed in the Drake and Bees Nest blazes but assessment teams were having difficulty access the fireground, Mr Fitzsimmons said.
The Bees Nest blaze has torched 50,000 hectares, twice the size of the Sydney city council area.
People in Tyringham, Dundurrabin and have been told it's too late to leave.
"These fires are starting easily and are spreading very, very quickly and aggressively," Mr Fitzsimmons said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the state was well-prepared and resourced to battle the blazes, due to investments including a large air tanker.
"But nothing can match nature," she told reporters.
Armidale, Clarence Valley, Glen Innes, Inverell, Tenterfield, Uralla and Walcha local government areas have been declared natural disaster zones, allowing residents to access state and federal financial support.
No areas of NSW have a total fire ban on Saturday, but the northeast of the state and far south coast all sit in the very high fire danger range, the RFS says.
It expects some fires will burn for weeks.