NSW would be lucky to survive Thursday’s fires, the worst in more than 10 years, with fewer than 100 homes destroyed.
By late today, emergencies warnings had been declared in seven areas.
A lost dog runs from an out-of-control bushfire which threatened homes near Newnes train station. Photo: Wolter Peeters
With 90km/h winds blowing across the state, and temperatures reaching more than 34 degrees, new fires continued to break out late in the day.
The Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons used Twitter to voice his concern: “If we get through with less than 100 homes destroyed today, we have been lucky.”
His deputy Rob Rogers said it was “probably the most serious fire risk we’ve faced since the early 2000s.”
As many as 100 fires broke out during the day, with about 40 still uncontained about 5.30pm.
At least 30 homes were reported to have been lost in Springwood in the Blue Mountains.
There were numerous reports of substantial property loss around Springwood, and that the fire had jumped the Nepean River and was burning in the Penrith area.
Late Thursday, NSW Emergency Services Minister Mike Gallacher said the bushfire situation across the state was “very tough going indeed”.
“You only need to look out into the sky and see the bloom and ash that is hanging over Sydney,” he told ABC. “That’s coming from the fires burning in the Blue Mountains.”
During the days, more than 8500 homes in the west, south-west and north of Sydney lost power, as wind gusts of up to 70km/h brought branches down on powerlines.
Endeavour Energy has also advised residents in Lithgow, where a bushfire is burning, that it might need to isolate parts of its network as the fire passed through, AAP reported.
In the Blue Mountains, power was cut to about 4500 homes and businesses in Katoomba, Winmalee and parts of Leura, Blackheath and Mount Victoria.
In the Macarthur region, the worst affected areas were Wilton, Menangle and parts of Campbelltown.
Earlier in the day, Mr Fitzsimmons expressed concerns for the safety of home in Springwood.
“Nothing short of torrential rain will ease things at the moment,” he told the ABC.
But while the next 24 hours should bring a cool change, it wasn’t expected to contain much rain.
In Lithgow, attempts by firefighters to waterbomb a fire were hindered by 90km/h winds, RFS spokesman Joel Kursawe said.
Those winds are capable of carrying embers up to six kilometres.
“The problem is, when you’ve got aircraft over fires like that with [those] winds, a lot of the time they’re just getting knocked around in the sky,” Mr Kursawe told journalists at RFS headquarters in Sydney.
Paramedics were called to assist with evacuations in Yanderra, Lithgow and Katoomba.
By late Thursday, the fires surrounding Sydney had turned the afternoon sun into a bright red, threatening ball.
“It’s an apocalypse out there,” said one of the many inner-city workers and residents who were taking photos of the bright red sun amid the hulking grey cloud hanging over Sydney.
The clouds were reported to be sending ash down into Sydney’s inner city, including as far east as Coogee, prompting NSW Health to issue a bushfire air pollution health warning.
It said air quality in many areas was likely to be reduced due to smoke particles.
“Already smoke from bushfires burning in the Blue Mountains region and Muswellbrook areas has been blown east to Sydney city and coastal suburbs,” Professor Wayne Smith, the director of the environmental health branch, said.
“Particle levels are likely to be higher outdoors than indoors, so people sensitive to fine particles should limit the time they spend outside.”
By 6pm, emergency warnings were still issued for seven fires.The warnings cover:
- Springwood – the Blue Mountains fire is believed to have already destroyed multiple homes and has now jumped the Nepean River into Castlereagh in the Penrith area.
- Lithgow – the fire is burning in “dangerous conditions” and is out of control and has progressed from the Lithgow area towards Mount Tomah in the Blue Mountains.
- Wyong – the central coast fire is fast moving, high intensity and burning in an easterly direction. Burning near Ruttleys Road at Doyalson North. Residents are warned to expect hot, windy conditions with lots of smoke and potential embers.
- Balmoral Village – the scrub fire in the southern highlands is burning near the villages of Bargo, Balmoral and Yanderra. An emergency telephone message has been sent to residents at Bargo, with the south-westerly change creating erratic conditions.
- Port Stephens – the Heatherbrae fire has breached containment lines under gusty winds. It is burning in a south-easterly direction and is heading towards Fullerton Cove.
- Muswellbrook – the Hunter fire is burning in the area around Castle Rock Road near Blackjack Mountain and people on Hidden Valley Way are advised to seek shelter when the fire hits.