Colin and Delia Smith inspect their house after it was destroyed by a bushfire in the Blue Mountains suburb of Winmalee, 70km west of Sydney. REUTERS/David Gray
Firefighters battling on scorched firegrounds across NSW will
have 24 hours of kinder weather before severe conditions
return to test the state tomorrow.
Sixty-two fires were burning across the state yesterday with
17 uncontained and emergency warnings for residents of the
Blue Mountains townships of Bilpin, Berambing and Springwood.
Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said
the prospect of three fires in the Blue Mountains linking up
to form a mega blaze may have been successfully thwarted by
extensive backburning yesterday.
The Rural Fire Service is also hoping to capitalise on lower
temperatures today and a drop in the north easterly winds.
But tomorrow was shaping as "D-Day", the RFS said.
"The weather situation continues to firm up as being
problematic over the next 48 hours with a continuance of
similar conditions to today, albeit a marginal reduction of
temperatures for tomorrow, before we see wind strengths
dominate much of the fire affected areas," Mr Fitzsimmons
"But also more broadly right up through the Hunter and the
Central Ranges Metropolitan and Illawarra regions, we can
expect to see most of those areas with widespread severe fire
Mr Fitzsimmons said there was the potential for extreme fire
danger in the greater Sydney area.
And, while the Springwood backburning may have averted a mega
fire, there were still concerns the Mount Victoria and State
Mine blazes will merge on the western edge of the mountains
to form a massive fire.
"Earlier projections were that it had every potential of all
three fires joining together," RFS Commissioner Shane
"We can't rule it out but hopefully at this stage, with
everything that's been going on in the last 24 hours or so,
we've lessened the likelihood of that occurring."
Spotfires had hampered back burning efforts in the State Mine
fire late on Monday, while lightning strikes across the state
without any rainfall will also cause problems overnight, Mr
NSW remains in a state of emergency and premier Barry
O'Farrell defended the powers emergency authorities have been
handed to order evacuations.
"We do know in these situations at times there are people who
resist the request of emergency authorities to leave, that
not only puts their lives at risk but also puts at risk the
lives of emergency personnel," he told ABC TV. "You do need
to have these (powers), as draconian as they appear, to
ensure that people obey the law at these times."
An emergency alert issued for Wilton in the NSW Southern
Highlands from a fire at Balmoral was downgraded to watch and
act on Monday night after residents were threatened by ember
showers and spot fires.
Emergency alerts remained in place for the tiny village of
Berambing on Monday night, with embers from the nearby State
Mine Fire on Bells Line of Road blowing towards the
Residents in nearby Bilpin have also been told to shelter
with increasing spot fire activity in the area.
Meanwhile five children, including an 11-year-old boy, have
been arrested accused of lighting the blazes that ripped
through parts of NSW last week.
Police arrested a 15-year-old and the 11-year-old for their
alleged roles in a bushfire that burnt through 5000 hectares
in the Hunter Valley, forced the Newcastle Airport to close
and destroyed a number of sheds.
A 14-year-old was also arrested for allegedly lighting a fire
at Rutherford on Sunday and two girls, 12 and 14, are accused
of sparking a blaze at Bonnyrigg last Friday.
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said it was
disturbing young people had been arrested.
"We have been sending messages and the message I continue to
send to parents is this: look after your children, understand
where they are if you can, know who they are with, know what
they are doing," he told reporters.
More than 200 homes have been lost in the bushfires, with the
insurance bill hitting $94 million with 855 claims.