'Catastrophic' danger for NSW residents as deadly bushfires rage on


Firefighters are continuing to battle ferocious bushfires across Australia’s east as the NSW Rural Fire Service warns worsening conditions will escalate the fires to “as bad as it gets”.

A catastrophic fire danger is forecast for the Greater Sydney and Greater Hunter areas on Tuesday after ferocious blazes in northern NSW over the weekend claimed three lives and destroyed at least 150 homes.

Large areas of the state are also predicted to see severe and extreme fire danger.

"We've got big population centres covered by that catastrophic fire danger," RFS spokesman Anthony Clark told the ABC on Sunday.

"But also up on the north coast where we've simply got a lot of fires burning at the moment, those fires have got a real potential to run and impact on lives and properties on Tuesday.

"So the risk is very real."

Mr Clark said the situation would be “as bad as it gets”.

A burnt-out car in a property destroyed by a bushfire is seen in Torrington, near Glen Innes on Sunday. Source: AAP

‘Real concern’ for Sydney suburbs

Mr Clark said that around the Sydney area, they were "really concerned" about the urban fringe.

"Built-up areas where people live such as the northern suburbs of Sydney, up through the Central Coast, the Blue Mountains, the Sutherland Shire – if you're living anywhere near the bush, you are at risk," he said.

A statewide total fire ban has been declared for Monday and Tuesday.

Large parts of the state will be subject to high and very high fire danger on Monday and more than 40 schools will be closed.

A firefighter defends a property in Torrington on Sunday. Source: AAP

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service will also expand closures of national parks and reserves until further notice.

Although authorities are still to complete a detailed assessment of damage caused by the weekend's fires, the RFS said at least 150 homes had been destroyed.

A woman who died as she tried to flee the fires was identified by media on Sunday as Julie Fletcher, 63.

Ms Fletcher's body was discovered on Saturday night in a burnt-out home in the town of Johns River, 40km north of Taree on the mid-north coast.

Wytaliba residents Vivian Chaplain, 69, and George Nole were also named as victims, with people taking to social media to pay tribute to each of them.

The NSW Rural Fire Service said there was still 64 bush and grass fires burning across NSW, 40 of which are not contained.

An unfiltered picture of Port Macquarie where a fire has just started to burn. Source: Imgur

Queensland firefighters tackling more than 50 fires

Calmer conditions may help firefighters gain the upper hand as they battle more than 50 bushfires across Queensland but dangerous winds look set to return.

The most challenging blazes are at Cooroibah, north of Noosa, and Cobraball, near Yeppoon, where 17 homes have been lost and thousands of people were forced to flee.

Residents have also been told to evacuate a fire at Thornton in the Lockyer Valley.

A prepare to leave warning remains in place for blazes at Tarome and Clumber – about 80km southwest of Brisbane – Kilkivan and Jimna near Gympie, and Lower Beechmont in the Gold Coast hinterland.

Livingstone Shire Council mayor Bill Ludwig says the out-of-control Cobraball blaze is one of most dangerous and unpredictable fires the region had seen.

"This is a fire with multiple fronts, there's a front heading to the north, two heading to the east in different locations, and one heading to the south, and another the west," he told AAP.

"With no rain on the horizon, this is something to play out through the reduction of fuel loads through the fire working its way in the direction the elements are taking it."

To the south, firefighters have been able to gain the upper hand on a series of blazes that forced about 8000 people from their homes in the suburbs to the north of Noosa.

Thick smoke along Lake Cooroibah Road and Jirrimah Crescent in Cooroibah in Noosa Shire, Queensland on Saturday. Source: AAP
Firefighters have been pushed to their limits across Queensland and NSW. Three crew members are seen near fires at Lake Cooroibah Road. Source: AAP

Noosa mayor Tony Wellington says gusty northwesterly winds early on Sunday had caused the main fire front to flare up, but a significant firefighting effort allowed crews to gain control late in the day.

"They threw masses of resources at it because they were very concerned it might impact on (more) houses," he told AAP.

"But they were able to hold it back, which is terrific."

Mr Wellington said emergency services were continuing to assess the fire to see if it was possible for some residents to return home.

"If not tonight, hopefully we can get everyone home tomorrow," he said.

A light, humid sea breeze should assist firefighting efforts in coastal areas on Monday, the Bureau of Meteorology's Dean Narramore said.

"It will hopefully allow firefighters to get a bit of a handle on the fires," he said.

However, a gustier sea breeze could challenge firefighters in the Yeppoon later in the day.

Tuesday will see increasing northerly winds in the morning move towards the northwest later in the day and become moderate to gusty, he said.

"As the dry and gusty winds mix with the fire, it can cause the fire to pick up and run much faster," he said.

"That will increase the fire danger."

The Public Information and Inquiry Centre (PIIC), remains open to assist members of the public in relation to bushfire information for the Northern Rivers, Clarence Valley, Mid North Coast, and Manning Great Lakes areas.

The telephone number to call is 1800 227 228.

Donations to The Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery fund can be made online or by calling 1800-RED-CROSS (733 276).

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