A fire rages at Leadvill, east of Dubbo, yesterday.
A fire rages at Leadvill, east of Dubbo, yesterday. Kimba Thomas

76 bushfires burn through NSW as heat gets as bad as it gets

THEY warned "it's as bad as it gets". What they meant was "it's worse than it has ever been".

The state is today on the highest emergency alert "ever", with strong winds forecast and a series of record-breaking temperatures.

Residents in worst-affected areas were urged to take cover overnight or this morning, ahead of unprecedented "catastrophic" fire conditions.

At 5am on Sunday, the NSW Rural Fire Service advised there were 76 bush or grass fires burning across the state and 21 of those were not contained.

Extreme fire danger ratings were in place for the North Coast, Northern Slopes, Upper Central West Plains and Lower Central West Plains regions

Catastrophic conditions are forecast for the Greater Hunter, Central Ranges and North Western areas.

A fire rages at Leadvill, east of Dubbo, yesterday.
A fire rages at Leadvill, east of Dubbo, yesterday. Kimba Thomas

He warned: "It is not another summer's day. It is not another bad fire day. This is as bad as it gets."

Fires could erupt and move so fast that residents should not expect a firetruck to arrive if they call. It may also move too fast for an alert to be sent out.

The best option was to take refuge now, he said. "We need to be clear that in catastrophic conditions are the most dangerous conditions," Mr Fitzsimmons said.

"Fires will start easily and they will spread very quickly.

"Unless we are there in the most early stages of a fire starting, it is most likely that we will simply not contain it and the fire will take hold and spread and simply consume whatever is in its path.

"We are talking about the highest order of risk when it comes to fire danger ratings.

"The risk is real."

"The conditions for Sunday are the worst possible conditions when it comes to fire danger. We simply cannot guarantee that a fire truck will turn up to every home or every property."

He said it was the first time the state had experienced such "extraordinary" conditions, with the risk not expected to ease until late tomorrow. The last time the state had a catastrophic rating was in 2013, but it was restricted to the Shoalhaven and Illawarra.

To reduce the risk, the government began closing national parks while urging campers, hikers and off-roaders to change their plans.

More than 300 firefighters fought 49 blazes yesterday, 17 of which remained out of control last night. Thousands of other firefighters are on standby to assist today, with several fires threatening to cause major problems.

People across the state sweated it out, with thousands hitting beaches, pools and waterways, keeping lifeguards busy.

One woman was pulled barely conscious from Avoca Beach, in Sydney's north, after falling from rocks. Two passers-by jumped in to save the woman, aged in her 50s, holding her head above water until a surf lifesaver took her ashore on a jetski.

She was given oxygen and taken to hospital.

In another incident, a man was bitten by a snake at a remote waterhole at Castle Rock, in the state's northeast. The Westpac Rescue Helicopter was called to winch the 18-year-old out of the isolated spot, near Armidale.

Phillip Yoon of Marsfield was working at Tropfest but had to stop to cool down in 40-plus degrees.

Meanwhile, others retreated to shopping centres, cinemas or anywhere with airconditioning.

There was no relief in sight at Wolamie property, about 50km from Hay, in the state's southwest, where shearers rose in the early hours to get their backbreaking work done before the heat of the day hit hardest.

Jarrod Finn, 23, said: "I get up at 4, start at 6 and work 'til 3 because of how hot it's been. But it takes its toll working through the heat. I feel drained."

Among the fires were a blaze burning north of Griffith near Rankins Springs, where firefighters were desperately bulldozing containment lines as waterbombing aircraft attempted to consolidate their efforts.

Another fire troubling authorities was burning at Leadville, 15km east of Dunedoo, with hundreds of hectares already razed. As of last night, authorities had one flank under control but were battling another.

The fires follow a summer of record-breaking temperatures, including some broken in the past 24 hours.

In Richmond, temperatures hit 47C at 4.22pm, with 46.9C recorded at Penrith and 46.4C at Badgerys Creek.

The hottest temperate in the state was at Ivanhoe airport, where the mercury hit 47.6 degrees.

It is the first time in Sydney that there have been 10 consecutive days above 35C. Records were also broken in Canberra, with two consecutive days over 40 degrees. Weather authorities are expecting more records to be broken in the coming days.

News Corp Australia

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