Catastrophic fire danger across NSW on Tuesday and a statewide total fire ban means harsh penalties for anyone caught breaking the law, as enormous threat to homes and lives looms.
Authorities out in force to battle the 50 fires burning in record-breaking conditions have warned there will be strict policing of welding, grinding or gas cutting, or any activity that produces a spark or flame.
This includes lit cigarettes, with people who dispose of them irresponsibly attracting a $1320 fine – double the regular $660 penalty due it being a total fire ban day.
Littering a cigarette would also illicit a fine of $250, according to the NSW Environmental Protection Authority.
Anyone found lighting a fire during a total ban will be slapped with an on-the-spot fine of $2200, and if the matter gets referred to court, they could be subject to a fine of $5500 or 12 months prison, the NSW Rural Fire Service website says.
“Penalties for a fire that escapes and damages or destroys life, property or the environment can attract much greater fines and jail terms with maximums at $132,000 and/or 14 years jail,” it states.
Fire crews are battling 30 uncontained bushfires stretching from the NSW mid-north coast to Queensland's border in unprecedented heat and wind conditions.
The NSW Rural Fire Service has elevated more than half a dozen fires to “emergency” warning level - two near Taree on the mid north coast, one near Port Macquarie and two more at Torrington in the far north.
A blaze at Thunderbolts Way in Bretti, northwest of Taree, is burning out-of-control across 10,000 hectares, while residents at Nowendoc and Mount George have been told "it is too late to leave".
Another fire is burning unrestrained across nearly 20,000ha at nearby Hillville.
There are also emergency fires further north at Llangothlin near Armidale and Torrington north of Glen Innes. The latter has razed 60,000ha.
A fifth emergency affects Carrai East in Willi Willi National Park, northwest of Port Macquarie, for an out-of-control fire over 75,000ha advancing towards Kempsey.
Another two fires were declared emergency level at Liberation Trail near Coffs Harbour and at Washpool State Forest in Coombadjha, northwest of Grafton.
“We are certainly starting to see an increase in fire activity and therefore the fire danger is increasing accordingly,” RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters in Sydney.
“The reality is conditions will simply continue to get worse and deteriorate over the coming hours and particularly into this afternoon” driven by rising temperatures and high, dry winds.
Mr Fitzsimmons said the day was unfolding as predicted with a million hectares burning.
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