A bushfire that destroyed a number of properties in the NSW area of Port Stephens was started by sparking power lines, firefighters say.
Six homes were destroyed when fire tore through the area between Salt Ash and Tanilba Bay in Port Stephens on Sunday.
Initial investigations suggest the fire, which burned out more than 50 hectares, was caused by power lines sparking in the high winds, the NSW Rural Fire Service says.
Investigators are still trying to find out what started fires at Fingal Bay and the Heatherbrae area, also in Port Stephens.
More than 177 hectares were burned out near Fingal Bay.
"Anyone that might have seen something, no matter how small that piece of information may be, please share it with Crime Stoppers," RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told ABC radio.
"It could be the piece of the jigsaw puzzle that they're looking for to piece together how the fire started."
A southerly change overnight ended 24 hours of extreme conditions and brought rain to some areas of the Hunter region.
That allowed firefighters to downgrade fires in Port Stephens on Monday from "watch and act" to "advice".
But it came too late for the mayor of Port Stephens, who claims fire-affected residents weren't allowed to carry out hazard reduction burns.
"I believe several houses have been lost, which is a disaster as far as I'm concerned," Bruce MacKenzie told ABC radio.
"The Rural Fire Service, the politicians and the greenies have a lot to bloody answer for."
But Premier Barry O'Farrell, who visited the area on Monday, said last financial year about 280,000 hectares were subject to hazard reduction.
That compared to 117,000 hectares in 2010/11, the year leading up to his government's election.
"We committed ourselves to increasing hazard reduction across the state by 45 per cent in our first term," he told reporters.
"We're on track to do that."
A grassfire near Kempsey, on the mid-north coast, was one of those downgraded on Monday.
Michelle Armson, who owns the Bellbrook General Store, says the usually quiet village was transformed by the sound of sirens.
The fire was less than a kilometre from her shop.
"It's the talk of the town," she told AAP.
"We were a little concerned but we had people telling us not to worry about it, that they had it under control."
She said Bellbrook public school was evacuated because of smoke.The Bureau of Meteorology says temperatures in the Hunter region could reach as high as 37C again on Thursday.