Two Volunteer Firefighters Killed, Three Injured After Truck Rolled During 'Fire Storm'
Two volunteer firefighters have died while fighting bushfires where flames flared up to 60m high and winds blew at 100km/h in southwest Sydney.
The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers were in a truck that was travelling in a convoy near Buxton --a small village in the Macarthur Region -- on Thursday afternoon when their truck hit a tree and rolled off the road.
The driver and the front passenger died at the scene and three others were injured. The crew was part of a larger team desperately fighting the Green Wattle blaze that tore through the Wollondilly Shire on Thursday.
The NSW RFS described the loss of the two volunteer firefighters as "absolutely devastating" and said conditions at Green Wattle are deadly, even for trained professionals.
"This was a horrendous fire," Fire and Rescue NSW duty commander Inspector Kernin Lambert told ABC TV.
"Around the Balmoral village, we had two fire fronts come together and they merged. We were experiencing firestorm-type conditions."
The Green Wattle fire was still burning at an emergency warning level on Friday morning. Crews faced winds that were over 100 km/h and flames over 60 metres high overnight.
The 420,000-hectare Gospers Mountain fire, burning to the northwest of Sydney, was also at emergency level on Friday morning. The neighbouring Kerry Ridge blaze and a fire on the NSW South Coast at Currowan were downgraded to a "watch and act" alert.
The RFS confirmed at least 20 homes were destroyed on Thursday, but deputy commissioner Rob Rogers acknowledged reports there were up to 40 buildings lost.
"It's unknown how many were houses," he told ABC TV.
"We're going to have crews in the morning start going through that [damage assessment] forensically. We'll know more on Friday."
Firefighters are hoping to make the most of lower temperatures across NSW on Friday before extreme weather returns on Saturday.
Bureau of Meteorology acting NSW manager Jane Golding says the next 24 hours will be cooler, but the whole state will heat up again on Saturday.
Northwest winds mean smoke will return to coastal communities while Sydney's west could hit 45 degrees or higher. The majority of the state, away from the coast, will experience temperatures in the mid-to-high 40s on Saturday.
A week-long state of emergency has been declared in NSW and a statewide total fire ban remains in place.
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