NSW bushfires: Firefighters warn more lives at risk
- THE LATEST
- Three dead, others missing, 40 injured
- 150+ homes destroyed
- 72 fires still burning across NSW
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian have been told more lives and homes will be in danger on Tuesday.
The dire warning was issued by firefighters desperately trying to control the devastating bushfires across NSW before a ‘danger day’ of weather forecast for Tuesday.
As the state begins to count the devastating cost of the fires, three people have been confirmed dead and there are fears that number could rise, with more reported missing. More than 150 properties have already been lost to the fires.
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While conditions eased today, firefighters are now desperately trying to control the bushfires and the RFS says Tuesday will likely see widespread severe and extreme fire danger from the Queensland border to the south coast and across the central west.
“Tuesday 12 November will be a dangerous day,” it tweeted.
“With so many fires already burning, homes and lives will be at risk.”
The leaders have flown into the mid north coast to hear from firefighters and displaced residents, near where Julie Fletcher, 63, was killed trying to flee a fire early yesterday morning.
Mr Morrison and Ms Berejiklian were told firefighters are exhausted but they have another gruelling fight ahead of them.
For the past 67 days, there has been an average of between 500 and 1500 firefighters on the ground every day and night.
“The local crews are very, very tired, completely fatigued, after working around the clock for months,” NSW Rural Fire Service Superintendent Kam Baker said.
“There will be another very severe day on Tuesday, which will impact lives and property.”
Tuesday’s fires are predicted to hit anywhere east or south east of Stockyard Flat, which includes the entire NSW coast from Port Macquarie to Forster.
There have been instances of remote residents in mobile phone blacks spots unable to call for help, according to NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.
“There are places where communications are limited or even non-existent,” Mr Fitzsimmons said.
“We have mobile equipment – basically portable (reception) cells on wheels – but any given day we don’t know exactly where the fires will be and where to position them.”
On Sunday morning, 72 fires were burning across NSW, 36 of which were not under control.
Eleven fires remain at a watch and act level.
RFS Inspector Ben Shepherd says fire crews are doing all they can to control blazes already burning before Tuesday.
“We are looking down the barrel of a busy few days and potentially a dangerous day come Tuesday,” he told Seven News on Sunday.
“We’re trying to get as many of these fires under control before the onset of that weather on Tuesday, but look we won’t have these fires under control by that stage we’ll have to concentrate where it is burning close to residential areas.”
NSW Rural Fire Service fire behaviour analyst Simon Heemstra described the upcoming conditions as “very hot, very dry and very windy”.
“The three are lining up on Tuesday for potentially significant fire weather,” he said.
In the meantime RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says assessment teams are bracing themselves for “considerable losses”.
“There are communities and fire grounds where we are expecting to tally up considerable losses of homes and other properties,” he said.
“A number of our own fire stations have been destroyed.” At least 150 homes have been destroyed by the fires although this number is likely to climb as detailed assessments begin.
Mr Fitzsimmons said other important community assets had also been lost in the fires.
“We’re talking about schools being destroyed, we’re talking about community halls, bridges, power poles,” he said.
“All of those sorts of things – they get consumed in the path of a volatile fast-moving fire.”
Fire assessment teams would comb through devastated areas over the coming days, Mr Fitzsimmons said.
“The more forensic process of getting in and doing the detailed assessments will come over coming days.
“Clearly, from what we are seeing, and we do not have indicative assessments from all these fire grounds yet, but estimates are at least 150.”
The premier on Sunday said the federal and state governments had already moved to put disaster relief arrangements in place.
“I want to assure communities throughout the mid and north coast no matter in which way they’ve been impacted, we know for some people they’ve lost everything, for some people they’ve lost a loved one … no matter what anyone’s circumstances please know we’re here to support you,” Ms Berejiklian told Seven News.
An estimated 2000 people have used the more than 15 formal evacuation centres set up.
Bushfires are a fact of life in Australian summer. There are a few simple things you can do to protect your home when the fire danger is high.
Originally published as Facing Armageddon: ‘Tuesday will see lives at risk’