Catastrophic fire alerts as heatwave hitsThursday January 10, 2013 - 16:08 EDT
Hundreds of firefighters in New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania are working throughout the night to contain bushfires sparked after a run of searing weather across the country.
Fire authorities have had little reprieve from the heatwave, with temperatures set to continue the dangerous conditions throughout Wednesday.
Homes were destroyed in both New South Wales and Victoria on Tuesday, while more than 100 people remain unaccounted for after last week's bushfires in Tasmania.
More than 140 fires continue to burn in sweltering conditions across New South Wales, where emergency warnings remain in place for Deans Gap, Yarrabin, Sand Hills and Cobbler Road.
A catastrophic fire warning is in place for four areas in southern New South Wales, including the Northern and Eastern Riverina, the Illawarra Shoalhaven, and the Southern Ranges.
The mercury skyrocketed above 40 degrees Celsius across New South Wales on Tuesday, accompanied by strong winds with gusts of up to 100kph in some areas.
Cooler conditions and a southerly change on the state's south coast could bring some relief to fire crews battling a major fire in the Deans Gap area, near Nowra.
However, the Rural Fire Service says the change could also push the fire towards a number of residential properties.
In Victoria, firefighters have contained a blaze that destroyed up to six properties after breaking out in the Chepstowe area, west of Ballarat.
Two men had to be taken to hospital with minor burns, while four others were treated for smoke inhalation.
An out-of-control fire continues to burn through plantations in the Drik Drik area, in south-west Victoria.
Look back over our coverage of Tuesday's events below. All times AEDT.
A New South Wales firefighter protects a property being impacted by the Dean's Gully fire, near the town of Wandandian:
An emergency warning remains in place for an out-of-control bushfire burning in the Kybeyan Valley area, in south-east New South Wales.
Authorities say the fire is likely to move towards Numeralla in the early hours of Wednesday morning due to a southerly change.
Police are doorknocking homes in the area to warn residents.
The fire burning in the Chepstow area, west of Ballarat, has now been contained.
Rain has begun falling over the fire, which has burnt through 1,100 hectares.
A drop in temperature and fire intensity are allowing crews to assess the damage from a blaze that has destroyed a number of homes in western Victoria.
The CFA says they are investigating reports that a number of properties, including an historic homestead, have been damaged in the fire.
Incident controller Jon Rofe says they do not expect the fire to get much bigger tonight.
"There's a quite a cool south-westerly breeze blowing through now. We've actually even had a few spots of very light rain," he said.
"Those weather conditions have helped the fire behaviour abate quite dramatically to the extent where firefighters have been able to be very aggressive in the last hour or so in their attack on the fire."
NSW officials provide an update on the situation and say more than 140 fires are burning across the state.
Thirty of the fires remain uncontained.
A home has been destroyed at Jugiong and 20 others there are under "imminent attack".
Five emergency warnings remain in effect in areas around:
Cobbler Road, near Jugiong;
Deans Gap in the Shoalhaven area, where the fire has crossed the Princes Highway;
Sand Hills at Bungadore, where the Kings Highway is closed;
Tarcutta along the Mats Gully Road; and
Yarrabin along the Kybeyan Valley
Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says a large amount of damage has been done to infrastructure in pasture country as well as the loss of at least 1,000 head of stock.
He says a bulldozer driver working to contain the fires at Mates Gully was serious injured in an accident and is in hospital.
There have been more than 1.3 million page views to RFS website and 10,000 downloads of bushfire survival plans.
Mr Fitzsimmons says the danger is far from over.
"We've still got many hours of very difficult conditions being faced for NSW. That's tonight alone, let alone looking into tomorrow.
"Particularly as this southerly change moves northward, we can expect some fairly intense and erratic weather behaviour.
"That's going to present challenges and risks for firefighters and those living in the fire-affected areas."
Conor Duffy filed this report for the ABC's 7.30 program after record heat and powerful winds created dangerous bushfire conditions in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania:
Fire officials have issued an updated emergency warning for a grassfire burning out of control near the Hume Highway, Bogalara Road and Cobbler Road near the township of Jugiong.
The fire is burning near a small number of rural properties near the township and is impacting on Childowla Road.
It is too late for people in this area to leave they have been advised to take shelter.
The Rural Fire Service says the southerly wind change across New South Wales will bring large amounts of smoke from southern fires north.
It is warning this may impact cities including Wollongong and Sydney.
The town of Tarcutta, near Wagga Wagga in New South Wales, has been in the path of one of the fires burning in the state.
Gwen Brown, 73, is helping out at the town's RSL Club, where up to 30 people have gathered.
She told PM's Sally Sara that she has never seen anything like the current fires.
"We had a very big fire many, many, many years ago on a Christmas Day, but it wasn't as bad. The town wasn't threatened. The fire stopped at lower Tarcutta before it got to the creek.
"But today the wind is so bad here that it's just stirring it all up. [It is] shockingly frightening.
"I mean I'm an older person and I've lived through a few things, but this is probably the scariest I've seen. We've been through floods and all, and this is just the most frightening I've seen."
ABC reporter Philippa McDonald takes a look back at the day's events:
Crews attempting to control a fire near Cooma in the south east of New South Wales will continue working through the night.
The fire is burning in the Kybeyan Valley, threatening about 30 homes.
Cooma RFS spokesman Fred Nichols says the temperature has dropped but several homes could be impacted upon by a recent change in the wind.
"The fire is still being pushed along by 35-40kph winds on the fire ground and we're being told they are a lot stronger up in the air so they are not going away.
"There are 30 or so properties up there that could be threatened and the wind change will definitely bring those in the line of fire."
The blaze which tore through the Tasmanian town of Dunalley also affected the nearby hamlet of Boomer Bay, where 15 homes were destroyed.
The home of Merl and Terry Cluge is still standing, but the fire came so close that it burnt bushes in the Cluges' yard and the Australian flag that is flying above their charred veggie patch is in tatters.
Merl Cluge has told PM's Felicity Ogilvie that he is thankful to be alive.
"We were lucky enough to see it coming and went down to the boat ramp. There was about 25 people with us, with all cars and animals and the rest of it down there. We couldn't go anywhere.
"The heat was horrendous. It's a wonder everything didn't go up. We are just lucky to be here."
An emergency warning remains in effect for a fire burning near Cobbler Road at Jugiong in NSW.
The RFS says the fire will impact on Childowla and Talmo roads.
People in these areas have been advised to leave and head north to Bookham Hall.
Two homes have been destroyed by a fast-moving grassfire at Chepstowe, west of Ballarat, in Victoria.
An emergency warning remains in place there and VicRoads says the Western Freeway has been closed between Ballarat and Ararat.
The CFA says the fire has burnt through 225 hectares and police have been asked to evacuate nearby residents.
Two firefighters have been treated for superficial burns to their hands.
Lee Miezs of the Fire Control Centre says the blaze has grown significantly in the past hour, and a broader watch-and-act alert has been issued.
"The watch-and-act is for broader communities than the initial warnings, so that warning does still exist for that Chepstowe area, but as I said a watch-and-act for the communities of Chepstowe, Poverty Point, Snake Valley, Morchip, Carnam, Burrumbeet and Brewster," he said.
The NSW Rural Fire Service says crews are getting the upper hand on a blaze in the state's southern tablelands.
The fire at Grabben Gullen near Crookwell is being controlled and has been reduced from an emergency warning to a watch-and-act.
No homes or properties have been affected.
Peter Dyce from the Southern Tablelands RFS says the breakthrough is due to the efforts of firefighters.
"Good luck, good fortune and very hard work from our dedicated volunteers," he said.
"The weather has still maintained heat and low humidity, but the wind may have dropped slightly."
At Dean's Gap in the Shoalhaven area of the NSW south coast, a fire has breached containment lines and is threatening residents of Wandandian and Sussex Inlet.
Residents at Sussex Inlet and surrounding towns have been told it is too late to leave.
There is an anxious wait to see if a predicted southerly change will ease the threat.
The Princes Highway remains closed in both directions, blocking the way out for residents who have been advised to stay and protect their homes or head to their closest evacuation centre.
Here is an image from RFS Line Scan aircraft of the fire:
The Federal Government says it will activate its disaster response plan to assist the Rural Fire Service in New South Wales.
The plan provides access to Defence Force bases, fuel and personnel.
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon says it will assist aerial firefighting services as the state continues to face extreme fire danger.
Three people have been arrested for deliberately starting a fire at Shalvey in western Sydney this afternoon.
Five police crews worked with the RFS to find the juveniles after the fire burned for more than two-and-a-half hours.
Deputy Commissioner Mick Fuller says it is a disgraceful act on a day like today.
"However, again, it's important the community know that we're out there working with the RFS closely to make sure that we arrest anyone who's conducting this type of activity," he said.
Emergency services have downgraded the threat to homes from a fire near Parkes in the NSW central west.
Eight homes at Bogan Gate were at risk from the three fires which are believed to have started by a train moving through the area.
The Rural Fire Service says two of the fires are now under control, while the third is being controlled.
The emergency warning that was in place has been downgraded to a watch-and-act alert.
NSW Rural Fire Service workers and National Parks and Wildlife staff join forces to fill water-bombing aircraft at Jindabyne airfield in south-east NSW:
Here is an update on the situation in Victoria:
An emergency warning is in place for a fast-moving grassfire at Chepstowe, west of Ballarat.
Watch-and-act alerts remain in place for fires in the areas of Drik Drik and Goroke.
URGENT: Officials in NSW have issued an emergency warning for people in the vicinity of Jugiong.
A grass fire is burning out of control near the Hume Highway and Cobbler Road near the township.
Residents in the area of Bald Hill have been advised to remain in place and seek shelter as it is too late to leave the area.
Crews have contained a fire at Brogo in NSW's south east.
Up to 12 properties were under threat in the area and an emergency warning issued earlier has been lowered to a watch-and-act alert.
The RFS says crews were able to keep the fire to the west of Eagles Nest Road, between the Brogo River and Warrigal Range Road.
It says it is still concerned about possible changes in the wind.
Here is an update on the situation in Tasmania:
An emergency warning is in place for a large bushfire at Speedwell Road at Montumana.
Watch-and-act alerts remain in place for four other fires at Mathinna, Holwell, Forcett and Lake Repulse.
Tasmanian police say there are no immediate plans to release the names of people they are searching for in fire-affected areas.
About 100 people remain unaccounted for and police say they are concerned about a number of them.
A team of 20 Victorian police officers is in the state to help the search, which has so far covered more than 550 homes.
URGENT: An emergency warning has been issued for a 50-hectare fast-moving grassfire at Chepstowe, west of Ballarat, in Victoria.
The CFA says the fire is expected to impact the Beaufort-Carngham and Station Lane intersection.
Lee Miezs of the state control centre says the fire is out of control and travelling in a north-easterly direction.
He says 125 firefighters have been taken to the area to support local firefighters.
Mr Miezs says it is difficult to say how the fire might develop.
"Difficult to say with this weather. We've had grassfires move quickly. People need to follow their bushfire survival plans as there is a risk to lives and homes."
4:53pm: Evidence of the southerly cool change across New South Wales has been seen in Bega on the state's south coast.
The temperature there at 1.30pm was 40.4 degrees but at 4.30pm it had fallen to 25.7.
At 4.35pm is was 41.4 degrees at Sydney Airport after earlier hitting 42.5 degrees there at 2.08pm.
The state's highest temperature so far today has been 44.8 degrees recorded at Tibooburra and White Cliffs.
ABC reporter Nick Dole provided this report a short time ago regarding the out-of-control fire is burning near Warrigal Range Road at Brogo.
The fire is expected to impact on isolated properties along Eagles Nest Road and east of Warrigal Range Road within the next hour.
A southerly wind change is expected around 5.30pm and is likely to push the fire towards Upper Brogo Road.
URGENT: An emergency alert has been issued in response to a grassfire that has burnt more than 80 hectares around Wokolena (Wagga Wagga) in NSW.
The fire is centred around the intersection of Wokolena Road and the Sturt Highway at Alfredtown.
An emergency alert telephone warning message has been sent to some isolated rural properties in the vicinity of Wokolena Road.
URGENT: An emergency warning has been issued for a bushfire burning in the area 13 kilometres east of Bungendore near the Kings Highway in NSW.
The fire is burning near Timber Hills Road and people who plan to leave the area have been advised to move west along the Kings Highway towards Bungendore.
The Rural Fire Service says a fire that was threatening the township of Henty in southern NSW is now under control.
A reduction in wind speed and temperature helped firefighters to contain the fire, which came within five kilometres of the town.
Here is video of the press conference held a little earlier by officials coordinating the response to the New South Wales fires:
URGENT: An emergency warning has been issued for a blaze burning out of control at Grabben Gullen, near Crookwell, in the NSW southern tablelands.
The Rural Fire Service says 10 ground crews and water-bombing aircraft are trying to control the fire which threatens around 50 homes.
Peter Dyce from the Southern Tablelands RFS says more houses will be at risk if the blaze is not contained.
"If we can't control it, it will affect a large number within the next two hours."
URGENT: An emergency warning has been issued by NSW officials for people near Bogan Gate, west of Parkes.
A number of fires have started along the railway line and are burning to both the west and east of Bogan Gate.
A state-wide total fire ban has been declared for Wednesday due to the large number of fires across NSW.
URGENT: The Rural Fire Service in NSW has issued emergency alert for a fire in the Shoalhaven, warning people around Sussex Inlet to prepare for an approaching bushfire.
The RFS says its too late to leave Wandandian, Sussex Inlet, Cudmirrah, Berrara, Bendalong and surrounding areas, and they should seek shelter and prepare their properties.
The Princes Highway is closed in both directions because of the bushfire, which is expected to hit within the next few hours.
The blaze at Deans Gap, to the west of Wandandian, broke containment lines at around one this afternoon.
Earlier, Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash spoke to ABC News 24:
The ABC's 7.30 last night told the story of one Tasmanian family's amazing race to survive the Dunalley bushfire at the weekend.
Below is a collection of photographs of members of the Walker and Holmes families sheltering next to a jetty in water as the fire approached.
You can also watch the report by .
Emily Criticoss and her family have chosen to stay in their house along the road under threat at Brogo in the NSW south-east.
The 22-year-old says they have a bushfire survival plan in place and hope a cool change continues.
"Earlier it was really, really windy and there were quite a few gusts coming at us.
"It is still quite hot, but there's none of the hot winds anymore.
"I know there's a (fire) truck from Bega and one from Cobargo as well as a Brogo truck, but I don't think they can get to the fire yet.
"My father and I are in the fire brigade so we're well prepared."
NSW officials provide an update on the situation and say more than 130 fires are burning across the state.
Forty of the fires remain uncontained.
The major fires are centred in areas around:
the Kybean Valley;
Emergency Services Minister Mike Gallacher says while a predicted southerly change has arrived in some parts of NSW, it is moving quite slowly.
"It will be some hours before we see any respite to any of these areas that are so affected.
"The thousands of firefighters that are there on the grounds or indeed on standby are working incredibly hard to protect communities, protect livestock and protect themselves as well as they go about this very dangerous job in very dangerous windy conditions."
About 500 firefighters are still trying to control a large bushfire in south-west Victoria.
The fire is now 6,600 hectares in size and is burning in a north-easterly direction in remote bushland and a pine plantation west of Portland.
There is a watch-and-act alert for the farming community of Drik Drik, and some local roads are closed or subject to speed restrictions.
ABC reporter Emily Stewart filed this report:
Insurance companies are already assessing the devastation caused by bushfires in Tasmania.
The Insurance Council says it has received 410 claims in the state so far but expects that figure to rise as people return to their homes.
The estimated loss is well over $42 million.
The council is urging people to contact its hotline if documents have been destroyed and they are unsure who their insurers are.
ABC reporter Elizabeth Byrne provides an update on a fast-moving grassfire burning about 14km east of Wagga Wagga near the village of Oura.
URGENT: An emergency warning has been issued for a large bushfire burning at Bull Bottom, near Mathinna, in Tasmania.
The uncontrolled fire is expected to put the area of Mathinna at very high risk within an hour.
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a severe weather warning for damaging winds for people in the Illawarra, Southern Tablelands, South West Slopes, Snowy Mountains and Australian Capital Territory forecast districts.
Winds of around 50 to 60kph with peak gusts of 90 to 110kph are forecast.
Gusts of 105kph have been recorded at Cabramurra.
URGENT: An emergency warning is in place for a bushfire burning in the Kybeyan Valley area in the Cooma-Monaro local government area in NSW.
The fire is burning in a south-easterly direction and is impacting properties in The Avenue, Hains Road and Warnocks Road.
People in the area should seek shelter as the fire impacts.
Firefighters are on high alert across much of Victoria and authorities there have Elvis the air crane on standby at Wangaratta:
A fire in southern New South Wales is no longer posing a threat to the town of Jerilderie.
More than 70 firefighters and three aircraft are tackling the blaze which has destroyed more than 2,000 hectares of land north east of Conargo since 8:00pm yesterday.
The Rural Fire Service says Jerilderie is no longer under threat due to a change in the wind direction.
The fire remains strong on the western front and is burning heavy timber along the Yanco Creek.
Police in the New South Wales Illawarra have arrested a man for breaching the total fire ban.
Police were called to the 70-year-old's rural property at Wongawilli early this morning and saw a fire being used for stove cooking in a carport.
It is claimed the stove was old and damaged and hot ash was falling to the ground.
The man was arrested after he repeatedly tried to prevent officers from extinguishing the fire.
The latest information now says the grassfire at Sunbury has been contained.
URGENT: A fast-moving grassfire is burning out of control at Sunbury, in Melbourne's north, and an emergency warning has been issued to residents in the area.
The CFA says the blaze could reach the back of houses between Baggy Green street and Vineyard Road.
2:25pm: #NSWRFS statewide update: 124 incidents 340 trucks 1126 Ffighters 63 Aircraft 53989.59 ha burnt. Stay safe #nswfires
URGENT: An emergency warning has been issued for people in the vicinity of Nettlefolds Road, Holwell in Tasmania.
Officials say the fire is expected to put the area of Stewarts Road, Holwell Road, Nettlefolds Road, Flowery Gully Road at very high risk from the fire front within 30 minutes.
URGENT: An emergency warning has been issued for people in the vicinity of Mates Gully, Tarcutta in NSW.
The Rural Fire Service says a bushfire is impacting properties in Tarcutta.
Residents in the area have been advised to shelter as it is too late to leave the area.
The RFS says an evacuation centre is being set up at the town's RSL club.
Here is an aerial photo of the Yarrabin bushfire in the Cooma Monaro area in southern NSW:
Hallie Fernandez runs a bed and breakfast along the road under threat at Brogo in NSW, where an out-of-control bushfire is burning on the Warrigal Range Road.
She says they immediately gathered belongings and told guests to leave.
"We grabbed the photo albums, suitcases, clothes and jewellery and ended up getting out while we could.
"We did have guests staying last night and they were supposed to be checking out this morning and they wanted to stay and help us, but we were like, 'No, please go'."
URGENT: Another emergency warning has been issued for the Ryan Road Fire at Munyabla (Lockhart) in NSW.
The fire is burning near "The Oaks" property on Ryan Road, Munyabla, and is moving in an easterly direction towards the township of Henty.
People are advised to shelter in place as the fire impacts. It is not safe for people to leave the area now.
URGENT: Another emergency warning has been issued in Tasmania, this time for a large bushfire at Flowery Gully near Beaconsfield.
The fire front is expected to put the area of Stewarts Hill, Holwell Road, Nettlefolds Road and Flowery Gully Road at very high risk within 30 minutes.
More details on the .
URGENT: The RFS has just revised the fire danger level for the NSW Riverina to "catastrophic".
It says revised observations from the BoM show the northern and eastern Riverina and southern parts of the Lower Central West Plains are expected to reach catastrophic fire danger levels this afternoon ahead of a southerly change.
The temperature at Sydney's Observatory Hill has just hit 40C.
Meanwhile reporter Karl Hoerr has sent us this photo of a truck which caught fire on the M4 - one of a spate of small fires across the city today.
1:10pm: Scorched earth: firefighters damp down a bushfire at Oura near Wagga Wagga today.
1:00pm: Here's the situation in New South Wales right now:
Two separate, fast-moving fires are threatening properties in the state's south.
Predictions the state would experience the worst bushfire conditions ever are proving correct.
Wind gusts are hitting 70kph and the temperatures are in the high 30s.
In the Bega Valley, an out-of-control grassfire is threatening homes near Warrigal Range Rd at Brogo.
Near Cooma, a fast-moving fire is expected to hit the Kybean Valley within the next three hours.
Residents in the Numeralla and Carlaminda areas have been told it is too late to leave.
"Watch and act" alerts are in place for fires at Deniliquin, Bland, Harden and Wagga Wagga.
More than 100 fires are burning across the state.
12:54pm: Crews have now contained the fire at Lucas Heights nuclear reactor.
12:51pm: ABC reporter Tyson Shine is with a media convoy on the Tasman Peninsula, where a fire that has already destroyed 100 homes has been upgraded to an emergency and is again threatening properties.
"I am just inside a police road block at Forcett, east of Hobart, where spot fires have flared up near the Arthur Highway.
"The fire front is still very active, fire trucks are constantly rushing by. Hundreds of residents are driving in the opposite direction, as emergency crews evacuate them from the isolated Tasman Peninsula.
"Tensions are rising between police and residents who want to return to their homes. Police are controlling the number of people allowed into the affected areas for safety reasons."
12:47pm: Fires are also breaking out in Canberra. ACT fire crews are fighting small fires across the capital. There is a grass fire at Coppins Crossing Road in Belconnen and a blaze burning in rubbish at Boote Place in Spence. Grass fires at Oaks Estate on the NSW-ACT border and at Hallet Place in Kambah have been extinguished.
12:44pm: The heat is on in Sydney. At 12:30pm it was more than 36C at Sydney Harbour - up 6C in less than two hours. The temperature is expected to be in the low 40s by mid-afternoon.
Firefighters in Sydney have been kept busy by a lot of small fires. Fire and Rescue NSW Superintendent Tom Cooper says trees and vehicles are alight, including a truck on the M4, and alarms have been going off due to the heat.
12:40pm: Watch Tasmanian authorities give more details on the bushfire emergency at Eaglehawk Neck.
12:35pm: ABC reporter Lisa Mosley took this photo of smoke rising from the distant Yarrabin bushfire.
12:26pm: As temperatures rise in the NSW Illawarra and Shoalhaven, people are being removed from danger. Currently the main fire at Wandandian south of Nowra is contained, but the SES is doorknocking properties telling some people to leave, or prepare to leave.
Further east the coastal towns of Sussex Inlet, Cudmirrah and Berara have been put on notice. People camping and in national parks are also being told to head to population centres at Nowra and Ulladulla.
New South Wales Emergency Services Minister Mike Gallacher says the army has joined with government agencies to mobilise all available fire fighting resources.
"It is a massive concern out there and this sadly has been borne out by experience, not just in Queensland and Victoria over the years but in our own experience, to have all of these agencies in the one place at the one time making these decisions".
12:13pm: Red and yellow shows the most intense parts of the Yarrabin bushfire in NSW this morning. The image was taken from the NSWRFS Line Scan aircraft.
12:10pm: Tasmanian authorities are reinforcing the point that people on the path of the Forcett fire need to get to Pirates Bay boat ramp or Eaglehawk Neck beach now. Specialist remote area teams are on their way from New Zealand and should be in Tasmania tonight.
12:00pm: URGENT: We now have the day's first emergency warning from Tasmania.
The Forcett fire is now impacting on Eaglehawk Neck, Pirates Bay, Doo Town, Old Jetty Road and Blowhole Road.
People in this area need to evacuate now to their nearby safe place - either Pirates Bay boat ramp or Eaglehawk Neck Beach.
11:55am: This map shows the location of the Warrigal Range Road fire at Brogo. An emergency alert is out for this fire.
11:51am: More details on the Yarrabin fire: People in the Dangelong, Numeralla and Countegany areas should expect to be affected by smoke and embers. People in this area should stay aware of the fire activity.
Fore information on road closures visit . Roads may be closed without warning.
11:47am: A fire has broken out in an electrical substation building at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney's south. The fire is believed to have been started by an electrical failure.
More than 100 fires are burning across NSW and the RFS says the forecasted weather conditions are playing out now.
The RFS says there will be no reprieve from the heat and the dry winds are increasing exactly as the bureau forecast.
More than 20 fires are out of control.
Emergency alerts have been issued for fires at (near Bega), and at .
Watch the RFS presser here.
11:40am: A long, hot day and night is ahead. The temperature in Bega cracked 40C at about 11:30am. It was 34C in Sydney, and expected to still be 30C in the city at midnight tonight.
11:31am: Emergency authorities are holding a media conference to update the fire situation in the state.
Catastrophic areas remain the Illawarra, the Shoalhaven and the Southern Ranges. The areas of greater Sydney, the greater central ranges, the lower central western plains, Monaro alpine ACT areas, southern slopes and Riverina have a fire danger rating in the extreme.
RFS fire commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons forecasts a long, hot day for the state. "There is a lot of heat left in this day," he says. "The front moving through NSW is not expected to pass through some of the worst areas until much later tonight. Certainly through the Shoalhaven and Illawarra, we're not expecting that front to move through until after 9pm and for people around Sydney, we are not expecting to see that front move through until after midnight."
He confirms that at least 20 homes will be under threat from the out-of-control fire burning east of Brogo.
11:23am: URGENT: The RFS has just issued another emergency warning, this time for an out-of-control bushfire burning on the Warrigal Range Road at Brogo.
The fire is expected to impact on homes east of Warrigal Range Road or west of Eagles Nest Road by approximately 12:45pm.
People in the area are able to leave now if the path is clear and relocate to Bega township.
Call Triple-0 if your life is in danger and take advice from firefighters on the ground.
11:21am: URGENT: The Rural Fire Service says it is now too late for residents in the Kybean Valley to flee the out-of-control Yarrabin fire.
Residents are advised to shelter in place as the fire impacts. Police are doorknocking homes in the area to advise them of the risk.
11:09am: What have we learned from past disasters? John Barron looks back at Australia's history of big bushfires.
11:04am: Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott will join his local bushfire brigade on standby to fight the fires in NSW.
Mr Abbott volunteers with the Davidson Rural Fire Brigade, which is based in Sydney.
"Once this engagement has concluded I'll be going back to Sydney to be on standby with my own local brigade for the next few days while hopefully the fire potential emergency in New South Wales passes," he said in Brisbane this morning.
10:56am: The Rural Fire Service has released this photo of the Yarrabin fire:
10:34am: Cooma-Monaro Mayor Dean Lynch says firefighters have told him they have the Yarrabin (Numeralla/Carlaminda) fire "sort of under control but it keeps breaking out".
"At this stage they think they might be able to keep on top of it but if the wind gets any stronger there could be some problems."
He said he couldn't comment on how many people had fled or opted to stay with their properties.
The RFS says the fire is burning in a south-easterly direction and has crossed over the Numeralla River in the direction of the Kybean Valley. It is expected to reach this area by around 2:00pm.
URGENT: People in the Kybean Valley area are advised to leave now and go to Nimmitabel township immediately. Police are doorknocking homes in the area to advise them of the risk.
Rob Rogers from the RFS has told ABC News 24 that the fire will now run up into rough hilly country to the east of Carlaminda Road.
"There will be properties further to the east that will be threatened later in the day. There is very little chance of containing that fire."
10:21am: ABC weatherman Graham Creed says the NSW south coast could see record temperatures today. It is already nearly 40C at Bega, up from a low of 15C overnight. The area is under a severe fire warning.
"We could see record temperatures across parts of the south coast. That was not expected. We thought that the cool change might move in before that," Creed told ABC News 24.
"I would be expecting that must of these areas are going to approach record temperatures.
"We may not see them broken widespread, but definitely on the central and that Southern Tablelands, the Illawarra and the south coast, these seem to be the areas recording exceptional temperatures for this time of day."
10:10am: Joanna Gash is the Mayor of Shoalhaven, where a catastrophic warning is in effect.
She has told ABC News 24 the area is a "tinderbox". Locals are "preparing for the worst but hoping for the best" and the peak danger period is expected to be around 2:00pm when winds of between 50 and 85 knots are expected.
A fire is burning at Deans Gap and residents living or holidaying in the following areas should move away from bushland for the day, to a built-up area such as the centre of a town like Nowra or Ulladulla: Wandandian; Sussex Inlet Road/Sussex Inlet; Swanhaven; Cudmirrah; Berrara.
10:02am: The RFS has just updated its alert on the Numeralla/Carlaminda fire, saying crews are working to protect properties which are being impacted by the fire now.
9:40am: URGENT: The RFS says it is now too late to leave if you are in the path of the Yarrabin fire. People in the area of Mount Forest Road, Carlaminda, should shelter in place as the fire impacts. Protect yourself from the radiant heat.
9:32am: REPEAT: The Yarrabin fire is running out of control near Numeralla/Carlaminda in the Monaro region of NSW. Residents have been warned to seek shelter and only leave if the path is clear. The fire is expected to be hitting properties now. .
Call Triple-0 if your life is in danger.
9:22am: Premier Barry O'Farrell has been on ABC 702 Local Radio:
"Listen to the radio, keep informed ... given the sorts of winds that are expected, it may be that people see the fire before there is notification from authorities.
"NSW Police have been contacting known arsonists overnight, to make it clear to them that the police aren't ignoring them."
9:21am: The temperature at Bega passed 38C at about 9:00am, according to the .
9:10am: URGENT: More details on the Yarrabin fire are .
"The bush fire is burning in the Mount Forest Road Carlaminda area and is expected to impact on number of rural properties anytime before 9:30am this morning.
"People in the area of Mount Forest Road Carlaminda should seek shelter as the fire impacts. Protect yourself from the radiant heat.
"Leave only if the path is clear. If safe to do so, residents can relocate to the north along Mount Forest Road.
"If your life is at risk, call Triple-0 immediately."
9:05am: URGENT: The NSW RFS has issued an emergency alert for the Yarrabin fire in the Monaro area. The RFS says people need to leave the area. The fire is expected to impact in the next 20-60 minutes.
9:01am: ABC reporter Damian McIver has been reporting from the Tasmanian fires and this morning he was in the town of Dunalley in the centre of the devastation.
He says the reason no-one appears to have lost their lives in the town is because they were able to take refuge in the sea as the flames hit the shoreline.
Watch his report here:
8:55am: The ACT Rural Fire Service says it is expecting temperatures in the high 30s and wind gusts of between 80kph and 100kph on high ground today.
Chief Officer Andrew Stark says the community is nervous about the prospect of a repeat of the 2003 fires which ravaged Canberra.
"Some of the firefighters who have been up on the range were up on the range 10 years ago and indeed lost their own houses when they came back to town from that fire," he told ABC News Breakfast.
"So the commitment to making sure that history doesn't repeat itself in that manner has been very high."
8:40am: The bushfire crisis is far from over in Tasmania, where firefighters say they fear predicted strong winds will cause new problems today.
Winds of up to 70kph will make it too dangerous for firefighters to use back-burning to create containment lines.
8:24am: We've just rolled out our live heatwave tracker dashboard, which will update throughout the day. You can click through using the box above, or
8:10am: The temperatures and winds are already up on the NSW south coast.
At 7:00am AEDT Albion Park, Nowra and Ulladulla were already 31C, with westerly winds of 30kph in Nowra.
More than 10,000 firefighters have been mobilised in central and far-west areas.
8:00am: Australian Capital Territory update:
The ACT is facing extreme conditions not seen since the 2003 Canberra bushfires.
A helicopter is searching for flare-ups in Namadgi National Park, where three fires are burning.
Crews are working to control a scrub fire at Numeralla near Cooma in southern NSW.
A firefighter is in hospital after suffering severe burns while fighting a blaze at Gunning, north of Canberra.
Most ACT nature reserves are closed until Saturday.
7:50am: Victoria update:
Fire authorities on high alert, temperatures to hit nearly 40C in parts of the state.
More than 7,000 hectares have been burnt by the Kentbruck fire, near Drik Drik, north-west of Portland.
That fire is out of control and there is a "watch and act" order for the area.
Total fire bans are in place for the Mallee, Wimmera, Northern Country and North East districts.
More details at the .
7:39am: New South Wales update:
102 fires are burning around the state this morning.
Twenty-one are uncontained but not posing any immediate threat.
Some 1,500 firefighters worked through the night.
The forecast in the areas predicted to be worst affected is for wind gusts reaching 80kph and humidity in the single digits.
7:32am: ABC reporter Damian McIver took this photo in the Tasmanian fishing village of Dunalley, which was devastated by bushfires on Friday. It shows how the flames destroyed one house, but left its neighbour virtually untouched.
7:23am: NSW residents can .
7:17am: Police in Tasmania have moved to shut down social media rumours about looting in the wake of the state's devastating bushfires.
Inspector John Arnold told ABC Local Radio there has been no evidence of looting.
Police are still searching for bodies in houses destroyed by fire, and say it's now too difficult to count the number of people missing. No bodies have been found so far.
7:04am: Victorian authorities now say the Kentbruck fire has burnt more than 7,000 hectares, up from 4,000 late yesterday.
7:00am: Here's NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell speaking last night on how bad today could be: "[It] is not going to be just another ordinary day ... [It could] be perhaps the worst fire danger day this state has ever faced."
6:53am: Sam Basham from Victoria's Department of Sustainability and Environment talks about the back-burning efforts underway in the state's south-west.
6:38am: This map shows the catastrophic warning levels in southern NSW today:
6:35am: In Victoria, nearly 500 firefighters have been working throughout the night to try to contain a large blaze in the south-west. It has burnt more than 4,000 hectares at Kentbruck, near Portland, and is still out of control. An emergency warning has been issued for the farming community of Drik Drik.
The danger is not over in Tasmania where crews are still trying to contain three fires at Lake Repulse, Forcett and Montumana. Police investigating the Lake Repulse fire say they will charge a man for leaving a camp fire unattended.
6:27am: NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has been on ABC News Breakfast. He says there are just over 100 fires burning across the state this morning; of those, 21 are uncontained.
He says there is a "very, very difficult day ahead for people right across New South Wales... conditions don't get any worse than 'catastrophic'."
© ABC 2013
More breaking news
The start of spring has been unusually dry across most of New South Wales.
Towns in Queensland's south-east are being hit by storms as a front moves slowly towards Brisbane, but a severe storm warning has been cancelled.
The Queensland Rural Fire Service says fires on parts of the state's coast will burn hotter and faster this season due to the ongoing dry.