Nearly 500 homes have been lost in New South Wales since the start of bushfire season, the Rural Fire Service has confirmed.
NSW RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said 476 homes had been destroyed at the latest count, as firefighters today set about tackling 56 fires, 27 of which were uncontained.
The update comes as NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott are set to announce a new round of funding for residents and local councils affected by the bushfires in the fire-hit region of Kempsey.
A spokeswoman for Mr Elliott said part of the package would be more funding for BlazeAid, the volunteer organisation that helps rural families rebuild buildings and fences.
The RFS’s Building Impact Assessment teams found at least 577 outbuildings had also been destroyed.
It said more than 2,600 buildings in the area directly hit by fires had been saved.
On Sunday morning, three fires were at watch and act level: the Gospers Mountain fire north-west of Sydney, and the Myall Creek and Border Trail fires in the far north of the state.
Fire crews were using the milder conditions today to strengthen containment lines ahead of a return of hot, dangerous conditions on Tuesday.
Deputy Commissioner Rogers said controlled burning was being undertaken around homes threatened by the Gospers Mountain blaze.
He said firefighters were scrambling to draw containment lines before weather conditions deteriorated again.
Five total fire bans are in place today including the Hunter, Far North Coast, New England, Northern Slopes and North Western regions.
Deputy Commissioner Rogers said the fire would continue spreading further to the east once the westerly winds returned.
“It’s fair to say that there’s going to be a long time spent dealing with these fires and it’s not going to be over quickly,” he said.
He reiterated warnings about smoke pollution in areas including Taree, Port Macquarie and Kempsey, and said people with respiratory conditions needed to stay out of the smoke.
Looking ahead, he said crews from interstate and New Zealand were bolstering efforts to relieve exhausted volunteers, and that five large air tankers would be in service for the summer.
Twenty-five firefighters from New Zealand would be deployed to the Mid North Coast at Wauchope on Monday morning.
He said even with firefighters on the ground, people needed to continue to do their part.
“Last week, when we had that really bad batch of weather, the community stepped up. We had fires reported to us really quickly [and] people moved out of areas of high risk,” he said.
“We need people to carry out that sort of activities all throughout summer.”