News National Severe bushfire danger as exhausted crews face hot, dry weekend

Severe bushfire danger as exhausted crews face hot, dry weekend

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Bushfire experts say this year's fires in NSW are unprecedented. Photo: Getty
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Fatigued firefighters are facing more hot, dry conditions and severe fire danger this weekend but will keep up the battle.

The biggest danger in NSW moves to the north of the state on Saturday, with severe ratings issued for New England, the Northern Slopes and northwestern regions as temperatures reach the mid 30s, with gusty winds.

In Queensland, the Darling Downs will bear the brunt of dry, hot winds with extreme fire danger forecast for Sunday making conditions challenging for firefighters.

NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said while firefighters were fatigued they remained determined to do their job.

“There’s fatigue alright, the physical fatigue, but these men and women, they’re so emotionally and mentally invested in just trying to save and protect their communities,” Mr Fitzsimmons said.

“Difficult” conditions remained on Friday evening as firefighters took on the huge Gospers Mountain fire in Hawkesbury which triggered an emergency warning.

Smoke from the blaze, which was covering more than 85,000 hectares, made it all the way to the Central Coast and northern Sydney areas.

Four lives have been lost in fires in the past week: Barry Parsons 58, at Willawarrin, near Kempsey, Julie Fletcher, 63, who died in the town of Johns River, and Wytaliba locals Vivian Chaplain, 69, and George Nole.

The NSW Rural Fire Service confirmed more than 250 homes have been destroyed, 90 homes have been damaged and some 480 outbuildings and 18 facilities have also been razed.

But in positive news the RFS believes their efforts have saved more than 2000 buildings.

By Friday afternoon there were 61 fires burning across the state, with more than half uncontained.

A severe fire danger rating remained in place for the far north coast, north coast, Greater Hunter, Greater Sydney Region and Illawarra-Shoalhaven on Friday night, and large parts of the state are under total fire bans.

The RFS said more than 130 brigades will open on Saturday morning to speak with residents across the state about their local risk, property preparation and making a plan ahead of what is expected to be a long bushfire season.

Australian billionaire James Packer, meanwhile, has pledged $1 million to boost RFS resources and equipment budgets.

The federal government said it has provided almost $1.7 million in aid to people in bushfire-hit areas across NSW and Queensland.

Queensland blazes

There is no end in sight for Queensland’s dire fire threat, with the state gripped by dangerous conditions into next week.

The weather bureau has warned a pulse of westerly winds will sear the southeast as conditions continue to deteriorate.

The Darling Downs will bear the brunt of dry, hot winds with extreme fire danger forecast for Sunday making conditions challenging for firefighters.

“That’s in response to a burst of westerly winds that are bringing very hot weather and some very dry weather,” forecaster Jess Gardner said.

“With those winds, particularly as they increase on Sunday, we are likely to see an increase in the fire dangers.”

Severe isolated storms cells have also been forecast to potentially bring dry lightning which could ignite more bushfires and bring hail to coastal areas.

There are more than 60 blazes still burning across the state, with firefighters prepared for high temperatures and hot, dry westerly winds on

‘Prepare to Leave’ warnings were in place on Saturday morning for residents of Pechey/Ravensbourne (near Hampton), Tarome, Barney View, Palen Creek (near Mount Barney), and Kinkuna Waters near Woodgate, south of Bundaberg.

The Cobraball fire near Yeppoon in central Queensland continues to concern authorities given the difficult weather conditions expected in coming days.

The blaze, which destroyed 15 of the 16 homes lost in Queensland over the past week, is 90 per cent contained but that could change when high winds arrive.

Damage assessments are continuing, with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services saying the number of homes lost could rise.

But QFES assistant commissioner Tony Johnstone says crews have done a remarkable job protecting property.

“It’s really hard to say how many houses we’ve saved but I’d say in excess of 300 or 400,” he told ABC radio.

Temperatures near major fire grounds are expected to soar beyond 30C into the weekend.

-with AAP