Wild footage has captured the scale of a fire tearing through the south east of NSW, with authorities urging people to seek shelter as it was “too late to leave”.
An urgent warning was issued for parts of NSW and Victoria today – two in NSW being upgraded to the highest emergency warning level.
One alert has been issued for Coolagolite in the state’s south east and one is in Kearsley near Newcastle.
Residents in those areas were told to take shelter in their homes as the fires approached.
Dramatic footage shared by the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) showed plumes of thick black smoke from the Coolagolite fire billowing into the sky.
EMERGENCY WARNING: Coolagolite Rd Fire, Coolagolite (Bega Valley)
The fire continues to burn in an easterly direction towards Cuttagee, Barragga Bay & Bermagui. Residents in those areas should seek shelter as the fire approaches. It is too late to leave. https://t.co/YTZhkP2g27pic.twitter.com/7ED2e7Y22C
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) October 3, 2023
Three fires in the Gippsland region of Victoria were already at an emergency warning level before 6am on Tuesday, with take shelter now emergency warnings enacted for Briagolong, Cobbannah, Culloden, Moornapa and Woolenook as well as Seacombe and Loch Sport.
Thousands of homes are also without power in the Loch Sport area, only adding to the danger.
About 1981 properties have lost power, with the outage not due to be resolved until 5pm on Tuesday, according to outagetracker.com.au.
By Tuesday afternoon, the two fires near Briagolong had been downgraded to “watch and act” but Seacombe and Loch Sport remained at the highest emergency warning of “Take Shelter Now”.
This Emergency Warning is being issued for Seacombe and Loch Sport.
You are in danger and need to act immediately to survive.
The safest option is to take shelter indoors immediately. It is too late to leave.
More details at https://t.co/ZO8Cepe6YYpic.twitter.com/BvqJYamSso
— VicEmergency (@vicemergency) October 3, 2023
“You are in danger and need to act immediately to survive. The safest option is to take shelter indoors immediately,” Vic Emergency’s website reads.
“It is too late to leave.”
The same emergency warning had been issued for areas surrounding Stockdale, Fernbank, Stratford and Briagolong earlier on Tuesday.
“You must take shelter before the fire arrives. The extreme heat is likely to kill you well before the flames reach you,” authorities warned.
“As soon as the bushfire has passed the house, or conditions inside become unbearable, you need to get out and go to an area that has already been burnt. Staying inside a burning building will almost certainly end in death.”
This Emergency Warning is being issued for Fernbank, Glenaladale, Iguana Creek, Lindenow South, Perry Bridge, Stockdale, Stratford, Walpa, Woodglen and surrounding areas.
Leaving immediately is the safest option.
More details at https://t.co/sF0EuRDZYspic.twitter.com/BXNP6JC8G0
— VicEmergency (@vicemergency) October 2, 2023
There is relief on the way for Victoria, with heavy rain expected to arrive later on Tuesday according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
The rain should help extinguish the fires and put an end to “3 days of very challenging conditions,” according to Country Fire Authority Chief Officer Jason Heffernan.
Private burns contributed to the Gippsland fires, Country Fire Authority Chief Officer Jason Heffernan told a press conference.
“We‘ve had some reports, particularly on the Sunday, of numerous private burns that reignited which saw firefighters respond to, as of yesterday, some 220 fires across the East Gippsland area,” he said.
“I‘d like to point out that there’s no maliciousness in this.”
“These are people who are preparing their properties for the summer season,” he added before going on to say the Briagolong fire which had caused a lot of Tuesday’s chaos was still under investigation.
Mr Heffernan praised residents of East Gippsland, adding there were no further reports of property loss and no reports of injuries or deaths.
“I believe it is through the actions of the community we haven’t seen major loss or injuries,” he said.
“To the East Gippsland community, we thank you.”
Meanwhile, a severe weather watch and act warning has also been enacted for the broader Gippsland and northeast Victorian regions as fierce winds rage and floods are predicted.
Winds are expected to average 60-70km/h with peak gusts of up to 110km/h.
“Hazards include fallen trees and branches, dangerous road conditions, fallen power lines, broken windows and damage to vehicles,” Vic Emergency warned.
NSW firefighters are battling an out-of-control blaze in Martinsville near Lake Macquarie.
The 8ha bushfire burning north of Bangalow has now been upgraded to watch and act and is heading toward Mount Nellinda Rd.
Total Fire Bans are now in place for the Greater Sydney Region, Greater Hunter, Far South Coast, Northern Slopes, North Western, Upper Central West Plains, Lower Central West Plains and Central Ranges. Extreme and high fire danger is forecast across NSW. https://t.co/R9tDns8ts6pic.twitter.com/SCWTDFMEa0
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) October 2, 2023
There are also more than 80 fires across NSW, 16 of which are not contained.
Firefighters are particularly concerned about blazes burning near Mudgee, with a 340ha grassfire burning in Home Rule.
“We’re most concerned about the fire in the north of Mudgee. Yesterday that burned through a number of outbuilding structures,” Rural Fire Service Commissioner Rob Rogers said on the Today show.
“We’re going to be really watching that closely today because it’s going to get some really nasty weather.”
Just on Monday, the fire reached an emergency level as it burned out of control before simmering down overnight.
The Martinsville fire was still listed as watch and act on Tuesday afternoon.
Watch and act is the final alert level before an emergency warning.
Residents of areas where watch and act alerts are in place should be aware of a “heightened level of threat”, according to the NSW RFS.
“Conditions are changing and you need to start taking action now to protect you and your family,” the RFS warned.
NSW’s firefighting efforts will be hampered by fierce heat that’s settled in across the state, with temperatures expected to push toward 40C later on Tuesday.
It could be the hottest October 3 in history for Sydney, with the previous record sitting at 24.8C at Observatory Hill in 2007 and 2008.
Fire bans have been enacted over large parts of the state, including the Greater Sydney region and Greater Hunter.
After days of blistering heat that’s only added oxygen to the fires, a cold front is on the way through to give residents breathing room.
The “strong” cold front on its way from Western Australia will reach Victoria and South Australia on Tuesday, bringing with it the band of rain that’s expected to ease fire conditions.
Up to 200mm could fall in parts of Victoria most affected by bushfires over the next few days.
Though the rainfall is welcome, the cold front will bring its own severe weather, with wind gusts more than 100km/h already impacting Victoria before moving into NSW on Wednesday.
“This will bring a band of severe thunderstorms to central NSW which will move east during the day, reaching Sydney and coastal NSW later on Wednesday,” WeatherZone meteorologist Bob Neil said.
“Strong northerly winds will develop across NSW while cold south-westerly winds extend across SA, Vic and western NSW.”