Shane Fitzsimmons warns of ‘long way to go’

An emergency warning has been issued for the Hillville fire after a southeasterly change fanned the flames in a new direction, while the NSW Fire Commissioner warns there is a “long way to go.”

In the early hours of Wednesday morning the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) said the Hillville Road fire, southwest of Taree, was spreading quickly towards Nabiac and Failford.

“If you are in the area of Hillville, Nabiac and Failford and surrounding areas, seek shelter as the fire approaches. Protect yourself from the heat of the fire,” it said.

It comes after a dramatic southerly change sweeping up the NSW coast led to a dramatic drop in temperatures. NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the cooler temperatures “certainly bring some welcome relief” however firefighters were not out of the woods yet.

“We’re expecting to see increased fire dangers stay around for a little while yet,” he said on Tuesday evening.

“There’s certainly some welcome relief and a dramatic drop in temperatures behind the change, which is correlating with a significant reduction in the overall fire danger rating. Having said that, the winds are still strong and they’re still gusty.”

After a dramatic and dangerous day on Tuesday that saw “catastrophic conditions realised” in the Greater Sydney, Greater Hunter and Illawarra/Shoalhaven areas, he said “the work is far from over” and fire crews had a “long way to go” in terms of getting the fires under control.

Commissioner Fitzsimmons praised the work of fire crews, the Bureau of Meteorology and those in the community who have helped with the firefighting effort.

Ironically, smoke from fires served as an “insulation blanket” that prevented winds from fanning fires as quickly as they might have done otherwise, he said.

Up to a dozen homes were destroyed and the bill for the fires is at least $40 million, according to the Insurance Council of Australia.

Wednesday’s weather forecast is for “severe fire danger” in New England and “very high fire danger” in Northern Slopes according to the NSW Bureau of Meteorology reports.

Large parts of the NSW coast, including Sydney, have been issued warnings for dust and smoke haze. For Sydney, a poor air quality forecast has been issued by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE).

A state of emergency remains in place across NSW with total fire bans in effect.

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