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NSW bushfires surround Sydney but conditions ease for now

By Paige Cockburn, Riley Stuart and Selby Stewart, Sunday December 8, 2019 - 05:47 EDT
ABC image
Oakdale man Luke Wright has a breather after helping to save his brother's home. - ABC

Conditions have eased since the New South Wales bushfire crisis arrived in Sydney on Friday, but authorities warn that residents are "not out of the woods yet".

Two massive blazes threatened homes on two sides of the city on Friday and fire also crept towards major population centres on the South Coast and Central Coast.

A total fire ban was declared for areas surrounding the Harbour City on Saturday as a deteriorating weather forecast for the evening had authorities on high alert.

There are more than 100 bush and grass fires burning across the state, with 17 of those at watch and act level.

While last night offered some much-needed relief, windy conditions could merge another blaze into the "mega fire" burning outside Sydney.

However, RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the worst was predicted for Tuesday.

"We are expecting a return to another hot day," he said.

"We are expecting to see temperatures climb into the high 30s and early 40s across parts of NSW."

The commissioner said the weekend would allow firefighters to conduct "critical backburning".

"A lot of work over the coming days, particularly in anticipation of what is expected to be another heatwave coming into Tuesday."

'Not out of the woods'

Firefighters spent Saturday establishing containment lines.

While easterly winds could increase humidity levels, easing some of the blazes, they could collide with south westerly winds and whip up the fires further.

"[Friday night] they were able to strengthen a number of containment lines … in preparation of some of those challenging conditions we are expecting this afternoon," RFS Chief Superintendent Ben Millington told the ABC.

"We're not out of the woods yet. There's a lot of work to be done over the next couple of days before we see a return of those warm and windy conditions."

Saturday was not without incident, however.

Helicopter has 'hard landing'

About 11:00am a helicopter aiding firefighting efforts on the Mid North Coast crashed but the pilot, who was on board alone, only sustained minor injuries.

The helicopter had to perform what is commonly referred to as a "hard landing", and its engine caught fire as a result.

The crash happened around the Jarrah Road fire in Girvan, north-east of Newcastle, and all other aircraft in the area have been grounded while checks are being carried out.

The pilot was treated at the scene and did not need to be taken to the hospital.

There were also concerns about supply lines being impacted by the blazes.

Iggy Rzepa, who owns Industrial Replacements in Batemans Bay, said the fires forced his fuel suppliers to travel further.

"That'll put pressure on pricing because it's a longer delivery route," he said.

"All this morning we had a steady stream of vehicles lining up for fuel so that tells you they're having problems getting it somewhere else."

Smoke to stagnate

The smoke that has shrouded Sydney on-and-off for weeks is not going anywhere, however.

Mr Sgarbossa said it would "stagnate" over the Sydney basin and surrounding areas, before easterly winds tomorrow blew it further inland.

Several suburbs in the south-west were .

Meanwhile, several blazes combined north of Sydney on Friday to create a 60-kilometre "mega fire" that stretches all the way to Singleton, on the banks of the Hunter River.

It is now larger in size than the Sydney metropolitan area.

Strong winds fanned flames towards several suburbs in south-west Sydney, where Oakdale man Luke Wright helped save his brother's home.

"It's been going on all day, a fire came from the back and we put it out," he said.

"But then another one came from the side so the firies covered the house in foam.

"The fence has been damaged but that's about it, very lucky."

So far this season, .



© ABC 2019

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