Australia

'A really long night': Firefighters urge vigilance as out-of-control bushfires continue to burn

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A firefighter has suffered a fractured arm and suspected fractured ribs while battling a bushfire that came dangerously close to homes on Sydney's upper north shore.

Key points:

  • Regions of NSW are facing catastrophic conditions
  • 85 fires are burning across the state, with 46 blazes currently uncontained
  • 14 fires are at emergency level
  • A firefighter has sustained a fractured arm and suspected fractured ribs while battling a blaze in the Sydney suburb of South Turramurra
  • A firefighter at North Rothbury was cleared of going into cardiac arrest
  • Fire crews are concerned with hot, dry and windy conditions for later in the week
  • Insurance Council estimates the initial losses from fires in catastrophe areas totals $40 million
  • Authorities urge residents to leave early
  • How you can help those on the frontline
  • For the latest updates and current alert levels please visit the NSW Rural Fire Service website

The New South Wales bushfires continue to pose a threat to homes and lives across the state as crews get ready for a long night.

A firefighter suffered a fractured arm and suspected fractures ribs while battling a blaze at South Turramurra on Sydney's upper north shore.

Fire retardant was dropped on properties near bushland as crews worked to contain the flames at Canoon Rd.

Eventually, an aircraft headed to a fire north of Sydney was diverted at short notice to help extinguish the fire.

News footage showed some of the pink retardant had overshot the blaze, coming down on suburban houses and vehicles.

The NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner says crews are expecting the challenging conditions to continue well into the night.

"We need to be mindful that conditions are still continuing and are expected to continue for the coming hours, particularly ahead of the southerly change that's still moving across the state, and are not expected through the fire-affected areas until much later tonight," Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

Catastrophic fire conditions face the Greater Hunter, Greater Sydeny and Illawarra/Shoalhaven regions of New South Wales.

He said firefighters and affected communities were facing "a really long night".

Mr Fitzsimmons said there would be no reprieve for firefighters with no rainfall in the southerly change and warm, dry conditions set to dominate in the days and weeks ahead.

"As we look out a little bit further, we're expecting a cyclical pattern of increasing temperatures as we head into the end of this week and indeed as we head into next week," he said.

Eighty-five fires are burning across New South Wales with 46 of them uncontained.

Fourteen blazes are classified at the emergency level.

The damage bill is already estimated to top at least $40 million.

In positive news for first responders, the Rural Fire Service has also confirmed its earlier fears of a firefighter entering into cardiac arrest are now at ease.

"Pleasingly, when the ambulance arrived, they identified that wasn't the case," Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

"It was a case of severe heatstroke and smoke inhalation and the firefighter had collapsed. That firefighter has been treated and is being transported for appropriate attention."

'My house is burning down, what are you doing?'

Labor leader Anthony Albanese spent the day meeting with residents in the Northern Rivers community of Nimbin.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese speaks with Brian Hurrell in the bushfire affected area of Nimbin, New South Wales.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese speaks with Brian Hurrell in the bushfire affected area of Nimbin, New South Wales.
AAP

However, the public appearance turned sour as Labor MP Janelle Saffin was confronted by a resident demanding more action to help the community.

"Shame on you. Your house is not burning. My house is burning down! What are you doing? Nothing! You're laughing. You're having a circus. You're playing with fire," Ginger O'Brien said.

Local resident Ginger O'Brien shouts at Lismore MP Janelle Saffin.
Local resident Ginger O'Brien shouts at Lismore MP Janelle Saffin.
AAP

"Get more money for (the firefighters). When did you send aid? When have you given them more money? You've taken it all away."

The prime minister and his government have also proven unpopular in the streets of Nimbin, with some locals turning out with signs to vent their frustration with Canberra.

Tuntable Falls resident Amanda Collien and two-year-old daughter Etienne make their position known on the government's climate policies.
Tuntable Falls resident Amanda Collien and two-year-old daughter Etienne make their position known on the government's climate policies.
AAP

Four 'caught breaching NSW fire ban'

Three men have allegedly breached NSW's total fire ban while a nine-year-old boy has admitted to lighting a fire with a blowtorch as blazes rage throughout the state, according to NSW Police Force.

Police allege the first incident saw a 27-year-old man light a small campfire at Wallacia in Sydney's west on Monday afternoon to boil water for cups of tea.

He immediately extinguished the flames when police and firefighters arrived and was issued an on-the-spot $2,200 infringement notice.

Hours later, police were called to a home at Prestons in Sydney's south-west, where a 35-year-old man allegedly burned fence palings in a cylindrical barbecue.

"Embers from this fire fell to the ground and ignited palings, causing a secondary blaze," NSW police said in a statement.

Both fires were extinguished and the man was also issued an infringement notice.

The third man will face court after he allegedly lit a small coal barbecue at a Lalor Park home in Sydney's west in the early hours of Tuesday morning. 

Smoke from a large bushfire is seen outside Nana Glen, near Coffs Harbour.
Smoke from a large bushfire is seen outside Nana Glen, near Coffs Harbour.
AAP

Fire and Rescue NSW extinguished the fire and the 46-year-old man was arrested for failing to comply with a total fire ban and breach of bail.

The nine-year-old, due to his age, was warned under the Young Offenders Act after a small grass fire broke out behind a street in Nowra on the South Coast about 11.35am on Tuesday.

Police say the boy, who was with a group of other children, admitted to lighting the fire with a blowtorch.

The total state-wide fire ban remains in place and has been extended into Wednesday.

It means people cannot light, maintain or use a fire in the open, or carry out any activity in the open that causes, or is likely to cause

Army on standby

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday morning said the dire forecast had not changed and told residents to heed the warnings of authorities and head for safety.

"We need to make sure every community member takes the opportunity to assess the situation and act with precaution in every possible manner," Ms Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

"I can't thank enough volunteers and personnel that have been on the ground."

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds has said ADF personnel were not trained firefighters but they would be on standby to provide other support if needed.

Hundreds of schools have been closed for the day, with Education Minister Sarah Mitchell saying "safety remains the number one priority".

Residents try to knock down spot fires heading towards a house at Koorainghat on NSW's mid-north coast.
Residents try to knock down spot fires heading towards a house at Koorainghat on NSW's mid-north coast.
AAP

Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said residents face what "could be the most dangerous bushfire week this nation has ever seen".

Mr Elliott said places, where fires are already raging and are not contained such as the mid-north coast and north coast, are "going to cause us problems".

But he added the mission is to "overwhelm" any new fires elsewhere with fire trucks and aircraft so they don't take hold.

A Gloucester firefighter battles flames at Koorainghat, near Taree on NSW's mid-north coast.
A Gloucester firefighter battles flames at Koorainghat, near Taree on NSW's mid-north coast.
AAP

There are extreme fire danger ratings - the second highest - in place for the North Coast, Southern Ranges, Central Ranges, New England, Northern Slopes and North Western areas.

Fires since Friday have claimed the lives of three people and destroyed at least 150 homes.

More than 100 people have been injured including 20 firefighters hurt trying to protect communities. 

NSW Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan is considering bringing in extra resources from interstate to cope with the demand. 

Climate change dispute

Recent days have seen a war of words break out over a potential link between the fires and climate change.

Climate protesters have gathered outside Nationals leader Michael McCormack's office on Tuesday after he condemned the "disgraceful, disgusting" behaviour of "raving inner-city lunatics" linking climate change to the blazes.

A Tuncurry firefighter attacks part of the Hillville bushfire, south of Taree.
A Tuncurry firefighter attacks part of the Hillville bushfire, south of Taree.
AAP

Ms Berejiklian said on Monday that now is not the time to discuss the issue, but insisted her government has not shied away from talking about it and will discuss it at another time.

But some of those living in rural regions who have been directly affected made their feelings clear.

"To disregard the issue of climate change in a situation like this is wrong," Cerene Lowe, whose home was among many razed in Wytaliba on Friday told AAP.

Fellow Wytabila resident and Glen Innes Severn mayor Carol Sparks, whose home was severely damaged in a blaze, said there was "no doubt" about the link to climate change.

For the latest updates and current alert levels please visit the NSW Rural Fire Service website. 
With wires.

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