Catastrophic conditions forecast for Tuesday
Three people died and 200 homes and sheds were lost to bushfires over the weekend in NSW and QLD, but experts have warned the worst may still be yet to come.
Firefighters are today continuing to battle blazes in both states, as residents in parts of Western Australia are on high alert with an “Extreme Fire Danger” forecast for the South Interior.
• For bushfire updates in Queensland, go to the QLD RFS website.
A DEVASTATING WEEKEND OF BUSHFIRES
• Three people dead in NSW: Vivian Chaplain, 69, Julie Fletcher, 63, and George Nole
• 200 homes and sheds lost in QLD and NSW
• 61 fires still burning in NSW
• 51 fires still burning in Queensland
ALL THREE NSW VICTIMS NAMED
All three people who died in unprecedented bushfires in NSW have been identified while all those feared missing have been accounted for.
Julie Fletcher, 63, was named by multiple media outlets on Sunday as the third victim of the bushfires.
Her body was discovered in a burnt-out home in the town of Johns River some 40 kilometres north of Taree on the mid-north coast.
Fires swept through the area on Saturday afternoon.
Ms Fletcher’s neighbour Russell Souter said she was a “quality person”. “(She) would help you any time, her father was the same, they’re just a really good family,” Mr Souter told the ABC on Sunday.
Ms Fletcher’s sister told Mr Souter she was “just devastated”. “What do you when you lose a family member?” he said.
It has been reported the second victim of Friday’s firestorm, who was found in a burnt car near Glen Innes, is George Nole.
Those who knew Mr Nole, an elderly man from Wytaliba, took to Facebook to pay tribute to him.
“He was such a gentlemen. Will be missed by many,” Crystal Grob posted. Wytaliba resident Vivian Chaplain, 69, was earlier named as one of the victims. Ms Chaplain was treated for burns before being transferred to a Sydney hospital where she later died, the Rural Fire Service NSW said on Saturday. Friends have posted emotional tributes on social media.
“I am so sorry for your loss … Vivian was such a beautiful person,” Laura Hayden wrote on Facebook.
“Many condolences to all at Wytaliba, each and everyone is in our hearts,” wrote Nola Mae.
On Saturday, seven people were reported missing but on Sunday the NSW RFS confirmed all had been accounted for.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says her thoughts are with all those affected by the fires.
“The situation is very serious,” she said in a statement.
“Our thoughts and prayers go to the families and loved ones of those who have died and to all who have been affected by these fires.”
NSW WARNINGS FOR MONDAY AND TUESDAY
In NSW fire authorities are extremely worried about Tuesday with Sydney facing a “Catastrophic” fire danger for the first time since the new ratings were introduced in 2009.
The NSW Rural Fire Service is bracing for the highest level of bushfire danger for Greater Sydney and the Greater Hunter, including the Blue Mountains and Central Coast areas.
For those areas with a “Catastrophic” rating, the NSW RFS recommends that “leaving early is the only option”.
“Leave bushfire prone areas the night before or early in the day – do not just wait and see what happens,” the RFS site says. “Homes are not designed to withstand fires in catastrophic conditions so you should leave early.”
If you live in an area where “Catastrophic” fire danger is forecast but you’re unable to leave, the NSW RFS recommends you identify a safer location nearby. This may include a Neighbourhood Safer Place. You can find your nearest here.
A statewide total fire ban has been declared for all areas of NSW for today and tomorrow.
Schools in high-risk areas will be closed. The Department of Education website has the most up to date list of school closures, however if you are in doubt, please contact the school directly.
In NSW today there are closures at some national parks and reserves north of Hawkesbury River. You can see a full list of closures and alerts here.
QLD WARNINGS FOR MONDAY AND TUESDAY
In Queensland, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk warned yesterday, “We are not out of the woods yet because there is going to be constant fire danger over the next week, right up until Friday, with Wednesday being a very serious day”.
A light, humid sea breeze should assist firefighting efforts in coastal areas today, the Bureau of Meteorology’s Dean Narramore said.
“It will hopefully allow firefighters to get a bit of a handle on the fires,” he said.
But later in the day, a fresh gustier sea breeze could challenge firefighters in the Yeppoon area.
A state of fire emergency across 42 local government areas bans all outdoor fires and activities such as welding that can spark fires.
There are four steps you can take to get ready for a bush fire, according to the NSW Rural Fire Service.
• Discuss what to do if a bush fire threatens your home. Download a discussion guide here.
• Prepare your home and get it ready for bush fire season. Download a checklist here.
Advice – A fire has started. There is no immediate danger. Stay up to date in case the situation changes.
Watch and act – There is a heightened level of threat. You need to start taking action to protect you and your family.
Emergency warning – You may be in danger and need to take action immediately. Any delay now puts your life at risk.
• Keep all the bush fire information numbers (bush fire info line: 1800 649 737), websites and the smartphone app (Fires Near Me NSW app)
FOR THOSE AFFECTED
For those who’ve lost their homes to the fires, the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment and the Disaster Recovery Allowance have been activated to provide financial assistance. Payments will provide $1000 for adults and $400 for children.
There is also a Disaster Recovery Allowance which provides 13 weeks of income support to compensate people for loss of income. Fire victims can contact Centrelink to receive their payments.
– with Heather McNab, AAP