A total fire ban is in place across large swathes of eastern New South Wales today, with sweltering heat, strong winds and thunderstorms creating an extreme bushfire danger.
The fire hazard will be extreme in Sydney and the Hunter, while a severe fire warning is in place for the north coast, Illawarra, central ranges and north-west districts.
"We‚??re expecting more fire weather conditions across a number of areas across New South Wales," said Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.
"That will see Total Fire Bans in place in nine weather districts from the Illawarra, through the Greater Sydney area, the Hunter and right up to the Queensland border, stretching out towards Moree and Walgett."
Firefighters fear that forecast thunderstorms could exacerbate the threat of more blazes.
"Lightning strikes, particularly when they‚??re dry thunderstorms, are always problematic for firefighters, particularly given how dry the landscape is," Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.
"You couple that with what‚??s expected across some of the most dangerous fire weather areas, particularly the greater Sydney area and the Hunter area, where we‚??re expecting temperatures in the order of 36 degrees and humidity below 10 per cent.
"Those west-north-westerly winds are going to be strengthening through at 45 to 85 kilometres an hour, before that change starts moving through later in the afternoon."
There are currently 30 fires burning across the state, 16 of which are out of control.
"The good thing at the moment is that none of the fires we have are posing any immediate threat to people, but clearly we'll have to keep an eye on that as the weather deteriorates," Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.
The has totally banned the lighting of fires for the central ranges, New England, northern slopes, north-western, Illawarra/Shoalhaven, greater Sydney, greater Hunter, north coast and far-north coast.
© ABC 2013
16:28 EDT Hail is caused when raindrops are lifted up into the atmosphere during a thunderstorm and then supercooled by temperatures below freezing, turning them into ice balls.