Fire crews are racing to ensure that more than 130 bushfires still burning across NSW are under control before the forecast return of hot and windy conditions pose another serious threat to the state on the weekend.
While a southerly change on Wednesday brought much needed cooler weather to more than 2000 fire fighters battling blazes primarily in the state’s south and west, 30 fires last night remained not contained.
Three were of particular concern to the Rural Fire Service, including one with a 44km perimeter at Dean’s Gap near Sussex Inlet, a 16,000 hectare scrub and grass fire near Yass, and a 9,000-hectare blaze in the Kybeyan Valley, near Cooma.
The lower temperatures also did not stop further outbreaks, including a fire near Lithgow, just west of the Blue Mountains, which burnt through more than 50 hectares and at one stage posed a serious threat homes. Police believe that fire was deliberately lit.
The NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell on Wednesday raised the possibility of having those who are caught deliberately starting fires made to face the devastation they cause.
Yass Shire mayor Rowena Abbey said arsonists should be made to help put down animals injured in blazes they lit.
"We now in this state have graffiti offenders out there removing their vandalism," Mr O’Farrell said while on a tour of fire affected areas near Wagga Wagga. "The idea of ensuring arsonists have to go out there and confront what fires can do to properties, to animals and regrettably to humans is not a bad thing."
Early estimates say the fires, which have now burnt out more than 345,000 hectares of the state, have caused $1 million in stock losses, including the death of 10,000 sheep near Yass.
Only one home has been lost, a cottage in the Kybeyan Valley in southern NSW, and there has been no loss of life which Mr O’Farrell said was a "remarkable tribute" to the planning of the RFS and other emergency services.
The RFS however warned against complacency with more dangerous weather forecast across NSW from Friday.
"We’re looking at deteriorating weather on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So the temperatures will be elevated again," RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said. "We’re going to go into another hot spell and we’re looking at potentially three days of that."
The biggest threat on Wednesday night was posed by the grass and shrub fire burning in an easterly direction about 11 kilometres outside Yass. The RFS said rural properties could be impacted and fire crews would work through the night under taking property protection. The township of Yass was currently not under threat.
"It certainly has the potential to cause quite significant devastation if it were to continue along its current path," Mr Rogers said.
"But I’m confident we will protect the township of Yass."
The fire that began on Tuesday at Deans Gap, in the Shoalhaven remained out of control and has a 44km perimeter, having burnt out more than 4,000 hectares. While it posed no immediate threat to property the forecast return of high temperatures and strong winds on Friday meant it still could pose a threat to the coastal village of Sussex Inlet and nearby and Wandandian.
A watch and act advisory also was in place for the fire at Yarrabin near Cooma, which had a front of about 20 kilometres.
- Fairfax Media