Severe heatwave set for bushfire areas with temperatures expected to soar into 40s

Exhausted firefighters across NSW are facing a race against time as they try to contain dozens of blazes around the state before temperatures soar into the 40s on Tuesday.

Authorities are particularly concerned about the large fire burning on the outskirts of Sydney’s northwest at Gospers Mountain. It has been dubbed a ‘mega blaze’ after joining with neighbouring fires on Friday, and stretching towards the Central Coast.

The temperature at Richmond, which is perilously close to the blaze, will reach 42 degrees on Tuesday. Singleton in the Hunter Valley, just beyond the northern edge of the mega blaze, is set for 43.

The CBD will cop 36 and Bondi will be slightly cooler at 29, attracting beachgoers trying to catch some sun through the expectant smoke haze that is set to return on Monday afternoon.

Parramatta is forecast to reach 40 degrees on Tuesday.

Crews try and protect a home near Mangrove Mountain on Friday. Source: AAP
Beachgoers trying to escape the heat will see the return of smoke haze over Sydney from Monday afternoon. Source: AAP

Back-burning on Monday to help contain fire front

Better weather on Sunday provided an opportunity for critical back-burning and containment work ahead of the sudden spike in temperatures.

That work will continue on Monday as about 90 fires burn across NSW, half of which are not contained.

The majority are at watch an act level but authorities are keeping an eye on two big fires in the Singleton area – the Paddock Run and Little L Complex fires – and another Gospers Mountain in Sydney's northwestern outskirts that has merged with neighbouring fires.

Forecast temperatures across Australia at 5pm on Tuesday. Source: Windy

"There is a very high fire danger forecast for a number of areas in NSW today," the NSW Rural Fire Service tweeted.

"Fire dangers are set to increase tomorrow with hot, dry and windy conditions forecast."

"Very high" fire danger warnings are in place for Monday for the greater Hunter, Illawarra/Shoalhaven, Monaro alpine, southern ranges, central ranges, northern slopes and north-western fire regions, as well as the ACT.

The Bureau of Meteorology has warned much of inland NSW will "swelter" through a heatwave early this week with hot 40-plus-degree days and very warm 20-plus-degree nights.

While dense smoke from large fires near Warragamba Dam and the Wollombi National Park dissipated over Sydney in the past 24 hours it is set to return Monday afternoon.

More than 2000 koalas feared dead

An inquiry into koala populations and habitat in NSW is expected to hear evidence that more than 2000 of the native Australian marsupial may have died on the state's north coast in recent bushfires.

The state parliament's upper house inquiry will hold an urgent hearing on Monday to discuss the extent of damage to the koala population from bushfires.

Thousands of hectares of koala habitat across northern NSW and southeast Queensland have been destroyed in the recent bushfires.

Koalas are listed as vulnerable in Queensland, NSW and the ACT, largely a result of habitat clearing.

North East Forest Alliance president and ecologist Dailan Pugh is expected to give evidence on Monday that more than 2000 koalas may have died and up to one third of koala habitat on the state's north coast may have been lost in the fires.

Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, chair of the inquiry, said the loss of koalas should be a wake-up call.

"Today's hearing is timely and necessary. We will be hearing from some of Australia's leading experts on koalas, bushfire and climate change," Ms Faehrmann said in a statement on Sunday.

Victoria to cop sweltering temperatures on Monday

A total fire ban is in place on Monday for Victoria's north and northwest regions with temperatures forecast to reach the low 40s in some towns.

Mildura will likely top the list at 43, with Swan Hill following closely with 42 forecast.

Scorching temperatures and strong winds have prompted the ban on the Mallee, Wimmera and Northern Country regions.

Scorching and windy conditions forecast will see gusts of up to 70km/h.

Very high fire danger ratings have been declared across almost all the rest of the state. The southwest region is expected to face milder temperatures with a high fire danger rating declared.

Melbourne won't be as windy as the northern regions but the city is still set to hit 39 degrees.

CFA advised people living in areas at risk of fire to activate their bush fire plan.

"East Gippsland has already experienced several bushfires, which continue to burn and more than 32,400ha currently on fire," Victoria's Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said on Sunday.

Mr Crisp said Victorians should take action to protect themselves from the heat tomorrow and look after those most at risk.

"This includes your neighbours living alone, the elderly, the young, people with medical conditions and don't forget your pets."

With AAP

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