Fears mega-blaze could join second inferno
Severe winds and surging temperatures have authorities fearing that a 400,000ha monster inferno could today surge and join with a nearby bush blaze to form a mega fire circling Sydney and leaving already exhausted firefighters with their biggest battle yet.
Extreme Fire Danger is forecast for the Greater Sydney, Illawarra and Shoalhaven and Southern Ranges areas of the state today as temperatures soar over 40C and 50km/h winds fan massive flames.
The biggest fire in the state, the Gospers Mountain blaze, has burned through more than 400,000ha north of the Blue Mountains National Park and has fire bosses worried about the possibility of it spreading south and merging with the Green Wattle Creek blaze tearing through the Kanangra-Boyd National Park.
Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said these fires are of critical concern today, as is the Currowan fire in Shoalhaven, among the more than 100 blazes tearing across NSW.
"Over the next few days, we're going to see firefighters and emergency services, and all those communities close to the fires, be challenged with a new threat as we head into a heatwave that will dominate most of the state," Mr Fitzsimmons said yesterday.
"We'll have high sustained fire dangers for something like 15 hours."
NSW RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said firefighters will not be able to contain every blaze before conditions deteriorate.
Last week the Gospers Mountain and Green Wattle Creek fires were just 25km apart.
In Sydney it is forecast to hit 41C today while the mercury will reach 45C in Penrith.
Crews battling the Gospers Mountain and Green Wattle Creek fires will confront the worst of the conditions in the middle of today with strong dry winds and sweltering conditions.
"From 11am to 2pm the temperatures will hover around the mid 30s with 35C expected at 2pm. We're looking at wind speeds of about 40km/h starting at 11am, this then drops to 35 after about an hour," the Bureau of Meteorology's Neil Bennett said.
There is a concern the Gospers Mountain fire will spread quickly through the Blue Mountains National Park while Green Wattle Creek burns through the Kanangra-Boyd and Nattai national parks. Because of the severity of the drought, dead vegetation in the state's national parks have exacerbated the intensity of fires rolling through.
On the state's South Coast, locals will face a reinvigorated Currowan fire, spurred on by southerly winds but firefighters there will deal with slightly cooler conditions with temperatures expected in the low 30s.
It is expected to be at its strongest from 11am when a southerly wind, averaging around 25km/h, pushes it north. The blaze has caused havoc in the region destroying at least 15 homes and burning through 100,000ha.
Yesterday the spectre of the enormous Gospers Mountain blaze loomed large over the township of Bowen Mountain where 1200 residents were preparing for the worst.
Soaring temperatures of up to 43C and tricky wind conditions have prompted RFS personnel to issue a stark warning that Bowen Mountain was at "greatest risk" from the massive out-of-control bushfire.
New homeowners were among those fleeing yesterday afternoon but some were choosing to stay and defend, despite the grim warnings.
"You make the jokes when you buy up here but you never think it's going to happen," said Bronte Lehay, who bought her home with partner Aaron Shepherd only six months ago, and are now headed to Grose Vale until the risk passes.