Bushfire Crisis: Homes Lost, Damage Still Being Counted But 'Significant Destruction' Feared

Easing conditions across the country have allowed firefighters gain the upper hand on a number of fires, although authorities warn the threat is still not over. 

National medical stockpiles of particulate-filter masks will be opened up to help authorities on bushfire front lines in Victoria and NSW.

The federal government will also send 100,000 P2 masks to the ACT to help vulnerable people in the capital, Chief Minister Andrew Barr says.

The smoke in Canberra has caused shops, institutions and public facilities to close, with the CBD shopping centre the latest to shut shop on Sunday.

The federal government will send 450,000 masks from the national medical stockpile to help Victorian authorities.

It was also working to get masks to NSW frontline workers, having already provided 3000 to Australian Federal Police officers in bushfire affected areas.

Here's what we know at 5pm:

New South Wales

The death toll from this season's NSW bushfire crisis has climbed to 18 after a man died of a heart attack while battling a blaze southwest of Canberra.

The 47-year-old man died of a cardiac arrest on Saturday night while defending a friend's rural property near Batlow.



Burst Water Tank Floods Cooma During Bushfire Crisis

A burst water tank in Cooma, south of Canberra, has sent thousands of litres of water flooding through the town, injuring one person and damaging cars.

NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the man had travelled down from Goulburn.

There were 150 bushfires burning in NSW on Sunday afternoon with 60 uncontained.

There were none at an "emergency" warning level at 4pm but eight remained at "watch and act".



Man Dies While Defending Mate's Property From Bushfires

A 47-year-old man has died after helping defend a friend's property from bushfire in NSW's west overnight.

NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons warned NSW residents not to become complacent.

"We are seeing an easing of conditions right across the state and there's even a bit of drizzle down on the South Coast," the commissioner told reporters.

"It's certainly a welcome reprieve ... but, unfortunately, it's not putting out the fires and it's not helping us with furthering back burning and consolidation work."

Mr Fitzsimmons said crews this week would try and put in additional containment lines before warmer and windier conditions returned by next weekend.

The RFS said there 146 fires burning across the state, 65 of those are not contained.

More than 2700 personnel are on the ground battling the blazes, with easing conditions helping firefighters gain the upper hand on several fires.

The Voyager Point fire in Liverpool, in Sydney's south-west, is burning in bushland west of the Georges River. There are currently no threats to homes in the area and the M5 has been reopened nearby.


Residents in Mallacoota have started to be evacuated by air as the smoke begins to clear.

Premier Daniel Andrews has confirmed four Victorians are still unaccounted for in fire-affected areas, where the danger is far from over despite cooler conditions.

Mr Andrews also confirmed that while smoky conditions made rescue operations challenging, more people had been airlifted out of Mallacoota on Sunday.

Sixty one people had left the town on Sunday morning via Australian Defence Force helicopters and a ship, and another 350 had indicated they wanted to leave. A further 400 still remained by the coast.

Cooler conditions and light rain forecast on Sunday were hoped to give crews fighting the deadly blazes in the state's east and northeast some respite, as 18 communities remain cut off and significant property losses loom, authorities say.

As at 4.30pm, Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp confirmed that more than a million hectares have burnt, 800,000 of them in East Gippsland alone.

One evacuation order and three emergency warnings remain in place, with 21 watch and acts alerts issued for East Gippsland and the north east of Victoria.

Authorities are yet to obtain a clear picture of losses but concede they will be "significant".

A state of emergency remains in place for Victoria throughout next week.

A tree smoulders following a bushfire in Bruthen South, Victoria, Saturday, January 4, 2019. Image: AAP


Firefighters in Tasmania will use coming days to try to control a number of blazes before conditions are forecast to again worsen.

Eight bushfires continued to burn on Sunday, three of them sparking a "watch and act" alert, the Tasmania Fire Service reported.

"Firefighters, supported by machinery and aircraft will take advantage of favourable weather conditions over the coming days to build and strengthen control lines on all fires, before the fire danger may increase later in the week," the service said in a statement.

One of the areas of most concern is a series of fires near Fingal in the state's northeast.

The Fingal blazes started on December 29 and have burnt about 14630 hectares. Police believe some of the fires were deliberately lit.

About 100 firefighters are battling the flames together with seven aircraft.

A fire at Pelham, northwest of Hobart, has claimed a home, 13 vehicles and 11 outbuildings, but is within containment lines.

Smoke blankets swathes of Tasmania and there are numerous road closures due to fires, with assessments underway for the removal of unsafe trees.

Temperatures in parts of the state are due to reach 30C by Thursday.

South Australia

Areas of Kangaroo Island continue to burn with authorities warning of deteriorating conditions in coming days as the focus shifts towards damage assessment and recovery from the devastating blaze that has ravaged local communities.

A bushfire advice remains in place for the western half of the island with the eastern edge of the fireground extending from the north to the south coast.

More than 155,000 hectares has been burnt within a 300-kilometre perimeter, including large parts of the Flinders Chase National Park, with many homes, farms and other buildings lost along with tourism and service infrastructure.

Two lives have also been lost with outback pilot Dick Lang, 78, and his 43-year-old son Clayton Lang killed when their car became trapped by flames near Parndana.



'Larger Than Life' Father And Son Mourned After Bushfire Tragedy

Tributes from across Australia are flowing for a well-known and respected father and son, killed in the Kangaroo Island bushfires in South Australia.

Among those properties extensively damaged were the luxury Southern Ocean Lodge, on the west coast, and the Western Districts Football and Netball Clubs.

Also damaged was the Middle River Water Treatment Plant prompting SA Water to urge island residents to limit non-essential water use.

The plant was used to supply Kingscote, Parndana and surrounding areas with water now being drawn from the Penneshaw Desalination Plant.

About 600 properties remained without power, with SA Power Networks working to restore services.



Wildlife Decimated On Kangaroo Island In Fatal, Devastating Bushfire

Firefighters are continuing to work on the fatal Kangaroo Island bushfire that has blackened more than 155,000 hectares.

The Country Fire Service said on Sunday that while conditions across the island had eased the danger was not over.

"There are still patches of active fire along the fire edge, especially in the area around Stokes Bay," the CFS said.

"Residents need to stay alert for new fires in their area. There is the potential for flare-ups as winds pick up in the afternoon and the risk will increase later in the week with warmer, windier weather."

Water-bombing aircraft will continue to work across the fire zone in coming days as ground crews deal with any new fires and conduct mopping-up operations.