MidCoast Council mayor David West says he's anguished as residents brace themselves in the face of volatile fire conditions near Taree.
"From my personal perspective, it's horrifying," he told AAP on Friday afternoon.
"I've never felt a sense of anguish that I do now, the fear for my community."
Mr West said a fire near Forster threatened a council building on Thursday night.
"It was literally a wall of yellow, horrible, beastly, tormenting flames," the mayor said.
"It was a horrendous beast."
The mayor - who lives in Brimbin - is particularly concerned about an out-of-control fire burning near Hillville south of Taree.
The NSW Rural Fire Service says that fire has crossed the Pacific Highway and is spreading quickly.
The highway is closed in both directions between Taree and Bulahdelah. The Pacific Highway is also closed at Port Macquarie between the Oxley Highway and Hastings River Drive.
"It (the Hillville fire) moving toward the coast at a fairly rapid rate," Mr West said.
"The area that I live in hasn't been burned in about 30 years. There's a huge amount of fuel load."
A number of schools have been closed in the area due to the bushfires.
Firefighters and residents are working to protect properties north of Tuncurry from the Hillville fire. Conditions are dangerous and residents in Rainbow Flat, Diamond Beach, Possum Brush, Tallwoods Village and Hallidays Point should seek shelter. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/TrGrEeSoVm
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) November 8, 2019
MidCoast Council deputy mayor Claire Pontin - who lives in nearby Hallidays Point - says the area is "tinder dry".
"It's just crispy. In places, you can hear the leaves crunching under your feet."
There are 14 emergency warnings current in NSW for fires stretching from just north of Forster to west of Tenterfield near the Queensland border.
The worst fires are at: Hillville, Crowdy Bay National Park, Tapin Tops National Park, Port Macquarie, Willi Willi, the Mistake State Forest in Nambucca and surrounds, Tyringham, Wandsworth, Carrai Creek, Chaelundi, Woodford, Stockyard Flat and Torrington.
— Amelia Gilbert (@ameliagilbert) November 8, 2019
At 5.30pm (on Friday), there were 96 fires burning across the state, with 57 yet to be contained and 17 fires remain at Emergency Warning, mostly across the north coast and northern NSW, authorities said.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons earlier on Friday said two homes had been damaged or destroyed in the fire burning at Stockyard Flat near Walcha with assessors yet to reach the site.
"It is a volatile day and it will remain a volatile day," he told reporters in Sydney.
"We need vigilance and we need people to be decisive and ready to act in accordance with any direction given by authorities."
Mr Fitzsimmons said the bushfire danger across the state was "at the upper end of the scale", with five total fire bans in place for the New England, far north coast, north coast, Greater Hunter and Northern Slopes regions.
He said bush and grass fires were burning through about 370,000 hectares of NSW land - more than the entire land area burnt last year.
— Amelia Gilbert (@ameliagilbert) November 8, 2019
Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Paul Baxter said at-risk residents needed to be ready to act.
"Once a fire gets to an emergency alert level we may not be able to get to help you," he told reporters Friday afternoon.
"We haven't got the resources to be able to put into every single area so you must be prepared to survive yourself."
The escalated fire risk comes after a man, aged in his 50s, suffered serious burns to his legs and hands while trying to defend his rural property in Yarrowitch, east of Walcha, on Thursday.
Dust is expected to be blown across much of the state's northeast on Friday with the Central Coast and Newcastle areas the worst affected.
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The fire danger should lessen over the weekend, although threat levels were forecast to rise again on Tuesday or Wednesday next week, Mr Fitzsimmons said.
Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Rose Barr says there should be a brief reprieve in fire weather conditions as temperatures cool over the weekend.
"(But) from Monday conditions will warm up again and temperatures will heat up significantly," she told AAP.
Rising temperatures are forecast to bring elevated fire dangers across much of NSW by Tuesday.
Residents told to flee Noosa, Buccan fires
A watch and act alert is currently in place for Cooroibah, near Noosa, as well as Waterford and Buccan, near Logan, south of Brisbane. People in those areas are being told to leave now.
Residents in Thorton, Clumber and Lower Beechmont are being told to prepare to leave as separate fires burn.
***URGENT TEWANTIN RESIDENTS*** Sunshine Coast police are evacuating the ENTIRE SUBURB of Tewantin due to the current bushfire threat. Please LEAVE immediately, there is imminent threat to homes. This is for ALL residents of Tewantin. pic.twitter.com/EkbJoN39qc
— Queensland Police (@QldPolice) November 8, 2019
The Thornton blaze has split into two separate fires travelling in different directions.
Conditions are challenging because the fire is burning in steep, rugged country.
Belts of parched land and withered bush across Queensland are raising the risk of bushfire.
"Today will be the peak of the worst fire dangers and conditions will ease tomorrow," meteorologist Jess Gardner said.
"They will remain quite challenging as we continue to see a very, very dry air mass and some fairly fresh winds."
Extreme fire warnings are in place from the Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast, inland to Toowoomba and then out towards Dalby, Miles and Goondiwindi.
A fire ban is in place for residents in the Toowoomba and Southern Downs Regional Council areas.
Another area of concern is Teewah, north of Noosa, where firefighters have contained a fire but warn it could again flare up.
Severe warnings have also been issued for the area between Gympie and Bundaberg, out to Taroom, Emerald and west to Charleville.
The air is dry, the temperature is hot and strong winds are expected to sweep through areas shrivelled by a lack of rain.
"On top of the current weather, we've had stress on the plants, we've got a lot of what's called curing, a lot of the grass is already brown," Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Superintendent James Haig said.
"What I'm saying is, the drought conditions, the long-term dry conditions, the lack of rainfall, have exacerbated the bushfire conditions."
Supt Haig is urging all residents to get an evacuation plan together, and to avoid activities that can start a fire, like mowing the lawn or using a grinder.
He wants them to report fires to triple zero and call CrimeStoppers if they see anything suspicious.
Authorities say this year is different. The seasonal outlook from the Bureau of Meteorology is for below-average rainfall until after Christmas, and hotter temperatures.
It means an intense and long bushfire season.
Wind gusts of up to 80km/h are expected Friday afternoon as a low-pressure trough sweeps across the southeast.
Brisbane is set to reach a maximum of 37C while Ipswich will sizzle in 39C heat with no chance of rain over the next week.
Conditions are expected to ease over the weekend.
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