Red alert - firefighters on standby across NSW as temps soar

THE worst fire danger day in the state’s history has firefighters across the region on high alert as another day of searing temperatures is met by north-westerly winds.

Today’s conditions have authorities imposing a total fire ban across the state, closing state forests, advising people to leave national parks, issuing health warnings and placing thousands of firefighters on standby.

Across the region’s three fire districts – Northern Slopes, North Western and New England – the fire danger has been classified as very high, while in some parts of the state it has been upgraded to catastrophic. Dry and hot north-westerly winds of up to 25km/h are forecast across most of the region, along with temperatures of 38 degrees Celsius and above.

Tomorrow is likely to produce a similar scenario but temperatures will increase to 40 degrees in 

Tamworth and 42 degrees at Moree, with wind speeds increasing to 30km/h. Temperatures are then set to increase again heading into the weekend.

NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons described the fire risk as “potentially deadly”.

“I cannot say it more plainly: the risk is real and potentially deadly. People need to act now,” he said.

Premier Barry O’Farrell said it would be “very rare” to have no loss of property.

“Having had record rain .... we are about to have record dangers,” he said.

Mr O’Farrell said he was confident that loss of life could be avoided.

Commissioner Fitzsimmons has urged people to monitor conditions and reports.

Forestry Corporation chief forester Ross Dickson said the closure of state forests restricted all public access. 

“The weather conditions expected tomorrow pose a very real threat of fire,” Mr Dickson said. “No hunting, camping, motorbike riding or any other recreational use is permitted in the forests during the closure.”

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said people in vulnerable areas needed to have a bushfire survival plan in place.

“We have all our RFS volunteers, trucks and tankers on standby, plus the firefighters and resources of Fire and Rescue NSW, National Parks and Forests NSW,” he said. “Literally thousands of firefighters are on alert for today.”

Yesterday afternoon 20 fires across the state were still not contained.

Acting Deputy Police Commissioner and State Emergency Operation Controller Mick Fuller said police would be targeting suspected or known arsonists today and he asked people to be on the look-out for suspicious behaviour.

The areas of the state at the highest risk are the Shoalhaven, Illawarra and the southern ranges.

Temperatures in the state’s far west are predicted to hit 45 degrees today, while in Sydney the mercury is forecast to climb to 43 degrees – the third-highest temperature on record.

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