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NSW Rural Fire Service declares statewide total fire ban ahead of hot, windy conditions

By Bellinda Kontominas, Tuesday February 12, 2019 - 13:36 EDT
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The NSW RFS is warning people to have a fire plan in place. - ABC licensed

A total fire ban is in place across New South Wales with 33 bush and grass fires burning across the state, nine currently uncontained.

Hot, dry and windy conditions are set to make firefighting difficult and dangerous this afternoon, according to the Rural Fire Service.

Today marks the first statewide total fire ban for 2019.

Conditions will be worst in the Hunter region, where the fire danger rating is extreme, while nine other regions across the state — including the Greater Sydney region, north coast, central and southern ranges — are expecting severe conditions.

The southern ranges has been hit with gusts of up to 78 kilometres per hour (kph) and the Illawarra has felt winds of up to 74kph.

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said conditions across the state were considered high-risk.

"People need to be vigilant, the risk is very real," he said.

"We've been very fortunate not to have winds over the last couple of months but we've certainly got a pretty significant day of wind … people need to be vigilant."

He urged residents across the state to prepare their properties, and have a clear plan in place should fire threaten.

The RFS released a fire danger map showing much of the state was rated as severe fire danger (orange), with the Greater Hunter region rated extreme (red).

The remaining regions were rated as high (blue) or very high (yellow) fire danger.

The NSW Rural Fire Service will deploy extra units to areas of higher fire danger throughout the day.

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said a cool change was expected to start moving through late in the afternoon but would not hit the south-west corner of the state until about 4:00pm.

The temperatures forecast around the greater Sydney region are unusually uniform — with Sydney's CBD expecting 37C and Penrith's maximum tipped to reach 38C.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Katarina Kovacevic said this was due to westerly winds passing through the basin.

The winds also mean there was the possibility of raised dust, either from being transferred from rural areas or from local construction sites, she added.

But unlike the recent heatwaves Sydney has endured, the hot temperatures were only expected to last for one day.

"After midnight, we'll see a fresh and gusty southerly change move through the basin," Ms Kovacevic said.

"That will mean markedly cooler temperatures for Wednesday."


© ABC 2019

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