Stephen Cook: As I write this intro, over 90 fires are still burning in a variety of areas north, south and west of Sydney as night falls. Many are major emergencies. It appears there has been no loss of life but many homes have been lost.
We’ve just sadly been told a family friend, currently holidaying in the UK, has just watched their family’s home – in Springwood, in the Blue Mountains to the immediate west of Sydney (where member’s of Anthony’s family live and are safe) – burn to the ground along with many of her neighbours’ houses. She viewed this live on the TV news, in England! But even if they’d been at home, they wouldn’t have been able to do anything: the fires came so big and fast.
We live a good hour’s drive east from the worst fires, but even so, we’ve had to keep our doors and windows shut all afternoon as the smoke, fanned by 34C temperatures and 70-90kph winds, has blanketed Sydney; browning out the sky and sun (see above left and below)
What is most unusual about today’s fire crisis is that we are only in mid-October – our peak fire season is usually during our summer months of January and February.
Homes Lost as Bushfires Erupt Across NSW
From AAP – October 17, 2013
HOMES have been destroyed by “intense” and fast-moving bushfires sweeping parts of New South Wales (NSW), with the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, the worst hit.
NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman Anthony Clark said fires at Springwood and Winmalee in the Blue Mountains were burning very quickly and there was the potential to lose more homes this afternoon.
“If we get through with less than 100 homes destroyed today, we have been lucky,” RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said on Twitter.
The RFS said they feared “significant” home losses but late this afternoon there was no loss of life.
Hundreds of firefighters were this afternoon battling seven major fires in NSW, the RFS said, with fears an expected southerly change could make conditions more dangerous and unpredictable.
RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said it had been a nightmare day.
“It’s probably the most serious fire risk we’ve faced since the early 2000s,” he told ABC Radio. “… If we come out of this day without losing hundreds of homes we’ll be very lucky.”
He said some firefighters have suffered injuries, including one with burns. TV footage showed homes burning near Springwood, fuelled by strong winds, as residents took refuge in a local country club.
“The most intense fire I’ve seen for a long time,” a firefighter told Sky News.
There are also unconfirmed reports of properties being lost at Lithgow, at Yanderra and Balmoral, in the Southern Highlands, and near Port Stephens, where a fire is burning close to Newcastle Airport. Elsewhere in NSW, fires of grave concern to authorities are burning at Leppington, near Camden, west of Sydney, at Wyong on the Central Coast, at South Nowra on the south coast, and at Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley.
Earlier this afternoon, 595 firefighters were battling 78 bush and grass fires (currently 90) , 31 of them uncontained, as they braced for a southerly change.
“Southwesterly wind change on track. Winds gusting up to 90km/hr. Erratic & dangerous conditions for next few hours,” the RFS said on Twitter.
The RFS says the fire at Lithgow was moving fast, out of control, and heading for Mt Tomah in the Blue Mountains.
- Another fire was burning towards Mt Victoria in the Blue Mountains. Lower down the Blue Mountains, fire jumped the Nepean River and was burning in Castlereagh, in the Penrith area.
- Twitter users reported ashes and charred leaves falling to the ground as far away as Bondi Beach.
- North of Newcastle, a fire breached containment lines at Heatherbrae, closing the Pacific Highway and forcing Newcastle airport to halt flights.
- The RFS advised properties around Tomago Road, Cabbage Tree Road, Barrie Close and Williamtown Drive may be under threat.
- An emergency warning was also in place for a fire at Quin’s Lane in South Nowra, on the south coast.
- An emergency warning has also been issued for a grass fire burning around St James Road and St Davids Road at Varroville, near Camden, west of Sydney.
- A fire burning in the Southern Highlands, near Balmoral and Yanderra, has closed the Hume Highway near Mittagong.
- Residents in the Castle Rock area and Richlands Road west of Muswellbrook were being told to prepare for fire.
Premier Barry O’Farrell left state parliament to join the effort at RFS headquarters.
“There are parts of the state where currently residents are battling the uncertainty of the outbreak of these fires and our hearts and our thoughts are with them,” he told parliament.
Hot conditions today have been compounded by strong winds, bringing down powerlines and cutting power to 8700 homes west, south west and north of Sydney.
Surreal Scenes in a Smoke-Shrouded City: http://www.smh.com.au/photogallery/environment/smoke-over-sydney-20131017-2vpfj.html