Australia – Three major bushfires burning in New South Wales. A home is ablaze, a regional airport is closed and authorities are warning of a serious threat to life as bushfires burn across NSW. A total fire ban remains in place for several areas of the state on Thursday, with temperatures of 34C forecast. It was nudging 34C in Sydney at 1pm (AEDT) on Thursday, with gusty winds.
Of most concern to firefighters at 1pm were three fires. In the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, near Lithgow, more than 100 firefighters were battling a massive blaze that was skirting the village of Oaky Park and spotting into Clarence. A new fire had also broken out at Springwood. “The sky is very dark with the sun burning orange through the dark smoke.” Residents who hadn’t already evacuated before noon were advised to take shelter in their homes.
In the Southern Highlands, south-west of Sydney, a fire at the village of Balmoral, in Wingecarribee, was moving very quickly. “They’re saying that one house is already alight, that could be because the house was alight and it’s spread, or not, we don’t know. It’s all happened very quickly.”
And at Port Stephens, north of Newcastle, Newcastle airport was closed around 12pm and all flights in and out were suspended because of a bushfire burning nearby. Passengers are advised to not come to the airport and to contact their airline for flight details. Similar conditions on Sunday saw six homes lost to fires at Port Stephens, north of Newcastle, and near Kempsey on the north coast.
Attempts to waterbomb in Lithgow were being hindered by 90km winds, which were also capable of carrying embers up to six kilometres. “The problem is when you’ve got aircraft over fires like that with (those) winds, a lot of the time they’re just getting knocked around in the sky.”
Homes at Clarence, Dargan, Doctors Gap and Hartley are expected to come under threat from the fire, which has already burnt more than 1000 hectares of bushland. Two evacuation centres have been set up. Meanwhile, more than 130 firefighters are fighting the blaze near Port Stephens. “Some of the pictures we’re getting from up there, it’s just incredible. It’s just a mass smoke cloud over the whole town.” The fire at Balmoral Village was approaching the township of Yanderra and residents were being urged to move towards Bargo.