Nervous wait for NSW coastal towns amid looming fire

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Holidaymakers on the NSW south coast are enduring a nervous night hoping a dangerous blaze weakens, as fire crews battle 80 blazes across the state.

Extreme fire danger ratings were in place for Sydney and the Hunter region on Tuesday night as well as a swathe of the state’s interior stretching from the lower central-west plains to the Queensland border.

Temperatures reached 37.2 celsius at Sydney Airport about 2.30pm, with the city centre, Penrith, Gosford and Nowra all cracking 35 celsius.

Those highs are as much as 15 degrees above the October average maximum for the same locations.

The swelter sparked dozens of new fires across the state, including one threatening Bermagui on the south coast during busy school holidays.

The rapid move east triggered an emergency warning for the popular holiday town and neighbouring Cuttagee and Barragga Bay where the fire front was impacting properties.

Late in the afternoon, the threat eased for Bermagui as westerly winds fanned the blaze further south.

But the relief came with a warning that a significant southerly change due about midnight, bringing cooler temperatures and increased humidity, had the potential to push the fire back towards the town.

“People in Bermagui who do not feel adequately prepared to defend their properties should consider relocating to a safer place such as Bega or Narooma before nightfall,” the Rural Fire Service warned, noting towns with open evacuation centres.

Bushfires at Coolagolite on the NSW South Coast on Tuesday.Credit: James Brickwood

Another emergency for a fast-moving fire in bushland near Abernethy in the Cessnock region was downgraded to an advice level as conditions eased.

RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers said spot fires had earlier been seen among properties.

The emergency warnings are among the first for this bushfire season, which is expected to be the worst since the 2019/20 Black Summer.

Late on Tuesday, 81 blazes were burning statewide, including six out of control.

The largest uncontrolled fire near Bredbo in the Snowy-Monaro region tripled in size to 1140 hectares under strong winds as firefighters, heavy machinery and aircraft tried to strengthen containment lines.

It fell to advice ahead of expected rainfall across the foreground overnight.

The threats come after some buildings and stock were destroyed by a fast-moving grass fire north of Mudgee in the central west on Monday afternoon.

Premier Chris Minns said forecasts of a “horrific” bushfire season was one of the things that kept him up at night.

“I don’t want anybody to get over-confident – this could be a really tough bushfire season,” he said.

Meanwhile, SES crews were also busy after on Tuesday after winds exceeding 100km/h tore roofs off hotels and ski lodges at Smiggin Holes, Lake Crackenback and Perisher Valley.

Flood, hail and significant rain warnings were also issued for Tuesday night and Wednesday in the Riverina and Snowy Mountains regions.


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