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Bushfires threaten Taree and Shallow Bay homes as Pacific Highway reopens

Thursday September 26, 2013 - 19:50 EST
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The Rural Fire Service is monitoring more than 50 other fires around NSW, including this one at Berrima near Bowral. - ABC

An out-of-control bushfire is threatening about 20 homes near Taree on the NSW mid-north coast.

The Pacific Highway, which shut both ways just south of Taree due to the fire, has now reopened.

Another 10 properties are under threat about 40 kilometres further south at Shallow Bay in the Great Lakes area.

Bushfire emergency warnings issued by the Rural Fire Service have been downgraded.

Evacuation centres were set up at Taree and on the nearby coast at Old Bar.

Inspector Ben Shephard from the RFS says it is not safe for residents at Shallow Bay to travel to or from their properties.

"Don't try and leave. This is when accidents occur," he said.

"We are responding with more firefighters and hopefully we can get through this without any loss of property."

A fire had also threatened homes further inland at Yarrowitch, midway between Walcha and Port Macquarie, but has also since been downgraded by the RFS.

In Sydney crews have been kept busy dealing with smaller fires and more than 80 wind-related jobs.

Superintendent Ian Krimmer from Fire and Rescue NSW says numerous grass fires have been tying up resources.

"It's crazy that in this sort of weather we have to be saying this, but unfortunately we're still getting outbreaks on median strips and adjacent to freeways and motorways. That would suggest to us that they have to be the result of cigarette buts out windows," he said.

The winds had also caused blackouts at Rozelle in Sydney's inner-west and Lane Cove and Riverview in the city's north, but power has now been restored.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued a severe weather warning this morning predicting wind gusts of up to 100 kilometres an hour for a vast swathe of NSW.

By lunchtime the State Emergency Service had already responded to 40 calls of roof damage and fallen trees in the Sydney region and as far west as Broken Hill.

SES spokeswoman Sue Pritchard said they were anticipating more calls.

"It's fairly widespread this cold front that's moving through, so we're expecting the damage to be fairly widespread," she said.

"We're asking people... as it's school holidays, to keep an eye on their kids, especially where they're playing, that they're not near trees that can drop branches on them."

Despite an expected drop in temperature the winds and dry conditions mean the fire danger remains a concern.

A total fire ban has been declared in response to extreme to severe fire conditions in seven areas of the state.

The RFS earlier contained two small fires, at Maroota on Sydney's north-western outskirts and at Airds in the city's south-west.

Fire crews have already had a busy time and the official bushfire season in NSW does not start until October 1.

Inspector Shepherd says there are other signs of a busy time ahead.

"It's not unusual to see fire dangers this high during this time of year, however what is unusual is coming out of a very warm and dry winter," he said.

"The landscape is very dry, now also the (Weather) Bureau yesterday did release their forecasts for the next three months, which is now expected to be drier and warmer than normal."


© ABC 2013

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