Parts of NSW Facing Severe Fire Risk, New Emergency Warnings

By AAP

The fire danger rating has risen to severe in parts of NSW as hot, dry and windy conditions return to bushfire-hit areas and fresh emergency warnings are issued for the Hawkesbury and east of Armidale.

A warning has been issued for a persistent 85,000-hectare blaze at Gospers Mountain, which is now burning in the direction of Colo Heights.

bushfire
Flames from the Gospers Mountain bushfire reach the areas surrounding Colo Heights in Sydney, Australia, on Nov. 13, 2019. (Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

Those in the town should leave now towards Wilberforce, while those in the area of Yengo Drive should leave towards Milbrodale.

The bushfire is spreading rapidly and spot fires are starting ahead of the main blaze.

Another warning has been called for a fire on Guyra Road in Ebor, east of Armidale near Cathedral Rock National Park.

The Rural Fire Service NSW also confirmed more than 250 homes have been destroyed since Friday, with almost 90 damaged. Some 480 outbuildings and 18 facilities have also been razed.

While conditions eased following a “catastrophic” danger rating earlier in the week, the forecast of hot, dry weather again poses a threat on Friday.

A severe fire danger rating is in place for the far north coast, north coast, Greater Hunter, Greater Sydney Region and Illawarra-Shoalhaven, and large parts of the state are under total fire bans.

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons on Friday admitted authorities expected another tough day for fatigued NSW firefighters.

“It’s going to be another very difficult day for people from the Hawkesbury right up to the mid-north coast, right up to the fires burning on the Queensland border,” Fitzsimmons told the Seven Network.

“Unfortunately these strong winds, up to 60, 75km/h across the ranges, are really going to cause challenges.”

The army has been called in to assist in both NSW and Queensland.

The fire at Bora Ridge burning southeast of Casino flared to emergency level on Thursday but has since been downgraded to “watch and act” level. An additional five NSW blazes are at “watch and act.”

More than 1,300 firefighters were battling some 60 bushfires on Thursday night, more than half of which were uncontained, the RFS said.

Social media image of a kookaburra perching on a burnt tree in the aftermath of a bushfire in Wallabi Point, Australia
A kookaburra perches on a burnt tree in the aftermath of a bushfire in Wallabi Point, New South Wales, Australia, Nov. 12, 2019, in this image obtained from social media. (Courtesy of Adam Stevenson/Social Media via Reuters)

But the RFS believes their efforts have saved more than 2,000 buildings.

“There’s fatigue alright, the physical fatigue, but these men and women, they’re so emotionally and mentally invested in just trying to save and protect their communities,” Fitzsimmons said.

Death Toll

The death toll since Friday now stands at four, with harrowing details emerging of the latest victim’s final hours.

Barry Parsons’ body was discovered in bushland on the southern end of the Kyuna Track at Willawarrin, near Kempsey, on Wednesday night.

His body was found five days after his last sighting and a final post on a Facebook page in the 58-year-old’s name described Friday’s horror conditions.

“Seriously looks and sounds like apocolyse (sic) out there. F**ked up being on your own in these times,” Parsons’ post read.

Parsons had reportedly been living alone in a shed in the remote area.

News of his death follows that of Julie Fletcher, 63, who died in the town of Johns River, and Wytaliba locals Vivian Chaplain, 69, and George Nole.

The Insurance Council of Australia said insurers had received 900 claim applications, with initial losses totalling A$100 million.

Australian billionaire James Packer, meanwhile, has on Friday pledged A$1 million to boost RFS resources and equipment budgets.