At last, sweet relief arrives for fireys
For the first time in months, the Rural Fire Service has breathing room without a dangerous fire day on the horizon.
Granted a week-long reprieve from the bushfire crisis, crews will try to contain as many blazes as possible, particularly around areas that have turned into tourist ghost towns.
"It will probably be the best seven days we have had without a rise of very dangerous fire ratings coming towards us," RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said on Saturday.
"So, some reprieve. An opportunity for firefighters and affected communities to consolidate, and allow us to try and get the upper hand on the fires."
Since the devastating bushfires of New Year's Eve, tourists have left the usually popular south coast in droves.
With cooler weather and favourable winds forecast over the next week, the RFS will work on containing fires skirting tourist havens in a bid to reinvigorate local economies.
"We need to get that tourism industry back on its feet during what is meant to be their busiest time of year," RFS Inspector Ben Shepherd said.
Eastern areas of the south coast, from Shoalhaven to Batemans Bay, received the all-clear on Saturday to reopen for business.
Bookings in towns that had been spared from the bushfires, such as Berry and Kiama, have been cancelled months in advance.
Juliet Barr, of the Shoalhaven Tourism Advisory Group, said it had cost the region hundreds of millions in tourism dollars.
"Plan a road trip and keep these towns alive," she said.
Fire crews were also planning to backburn around the Erskine Creek fire, south of the Blue Mountains, and the Morton fire in the Southern Highlands.
The operations will be dependent on the weather with rain posing both a blessing and a curse for firefighters.
"Over the next week, we are seeing the potential for more moisture and more shower activity and more rainfall," Mr Fitzsimmons said.
The army will continue helping the RFS to get access to isolated communities by clearing roads. It has also set up a medical tent at Batemans Bay.
Authorities were on high alert for bad fire conditions on Friday, but escaped with no life or property loss.
One man working on a fire on his property in the Riverina region suffered serious burns.
Three large bushfires in southern NSW merged on Friday to form a mega-blaze stretching from the Victorian border across the Snowy Valleys and north to Tumut.
The fires flared up yesterday afternoon, a week after the tiny town of Batlow lost dozens of homes, and were upgraded to Watch and Act alert level.