A large aerial water tanker fighting bushfires in southern NSW has crashed as firefighters across the state battle a number of emergency blazes amid soaring temperatures.
A search is underway after authorities said a water bomber had gone down near Peak View in the Snowy Mountains region.
“Unfortunately we have been advised there has been an aviation accident involving a large air tanker providing response to fires in NSW,” ACT Emergency Services Agency commissioner Georgeina Wheelan told reporters.
The NSW Rural Fire Service earlier said “local ground crews indicate the aircraft may have crashed”.
“A number of helicopters are in the area carrying out a search,” the service said in a statement.
Five road ambulances and two rescue helicopters are en route after receiving reports of a plane crash in Peak View, a NSW Ambulance spokeswoman said.
The NSW Rural Fire Service is investigating reports of a serious incident involving an aircraft in southern NSW this afternoon.
Contact was lost with a Large Air Tanker which was working in the Snowy Monaro area. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/i6u1mlZsZ0
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 23, 2020
A return of hot and windy conditions resulted in seven bushfires being elevated to emergency warning level across NSW and the ACT on Thursday afternoon as temperatures soared into the 40s.
The fire at Box Hill in Sydney’s northwest was downgraded to “watch and act” after 1pm.
Blazes at Clyde Mountain and Badja Forest on the South Coast, Adaminaby in the Snowy Mountains and Big Jack Mountain and Glen Allen in the Bega Valley area remain at emergency level along with another fire burning near Canberra Airport.
Although fire grounds across the state have received rainfall in the past week, hot temperatures and high winds on Thursday led to an increase in fire activity.
Temperatures reached 42C in western Sydney at Penrith and Richmond and further inland at Coonamble and Bourke.
Seven NSW fire regions stretching from the Queensland border to the Victoria border are under total fire bans including greater Sydney. All seven regions were deemed to have a “severe” or “extreme” bushfire risk.
There were 84 fires burning across NSW with 40 yet to be contained at 3pm.
“Today will be a return to the bad old days we’ve seen over the course of the past few months,” NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott told reporters on Thursday morning.
“Our appeal, of course, is for people to ensure they remain vigilant.”
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said conditions on the ground had improved over the past week due to rainfall but not all fire-affected communities had enjoyed a drenching.
The commissioner predicted fires on Sydney’s perimeter – including the large Gospers Mountain and Green Wattle Creek fires – had the potential to deteriorate again.
The unprecedented blazes in NSW have killed 21 people this fire season and razed more than 2000 homes.