Prime bushfire conditions are expected to return to swathes of NSW by the middle of next week, as the first major blaze of the season left at least three homes destroyed and south coast communities reeling.
Authorities are now bracing for potential fire danger on the NSW north coast over Thursday, with winds expected to pick up and rainfall relieving other parts of the state not expected across the region.
It comes after more than 5000 hectares of thick bush was burnt through near the south coast town of Bermagui, with the tiny communities of Cuttagee and Barragga Bay the hardest hit.
By Wednesday afternoon at least three homes in the area were confirmed destroyed, while a man was taken to hospital after being injured when a tree fell on his car as he drove through the fire zone.
“It burnt through patches where we’ve conducted hazard reductions over the last few years, as well as patches that burned in the 2019/2020 bushfires — it just continued to charge through those pockets. That explains the risk we’re seeing this year,” Rural Fire Service operational manager Angela Burford told The Telegraph.
Shortly after midday the emergency warning for the south coast fire was downgraded, with 200 firefighters aided by a drop in temperatures and light rain over the early hours of Wednesday.
The RFS announced the fire was contained shortly after 5pm Wednesday, with no total fire bans in place across NSW for Thursday.
Cooler temperatures across the state from Friday will enable the RFS to mop up more than 50 fires still burning around the state, before temperatures begin to climb again by the middle of next week.
Ms Burford said there remain “two key areas of concern” in coming months — the central west of the state where grass fires are feared, and greater Sydney including the central coast, the Hills, Hornsby and the Illawarra, which didn’t burn in 2019/20.
Premier Chris Minns, who travelled to the south coast on Wednesday with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, said the early onslaught of fires across NSW pointed to a “hellish three months” of summer.
“We’re in October, and we’re facing mid-summer bushfire conditions in some parts of New South Wales, it points to a hellish three months,” he said
Emergency services Minister Jihad Dib, who travelled to the south coast on Wednesday, said it had been a “magnificent effort” by firefighters in “brutal conditions”, adding he was confident authorities were as prepared for the bushfire season as they could be.
“Being able to stand up an evacuation centre so quickly shows how much things have improved — there was no point of confusion,” he said, adding 800 homes were doorknocked in Bermagui on Tuesday.
Lucy Wilson, manager of the Breakfast Creek Vineyard at Coolagolite, said the fire burnt near their property over Tuesday before light rain and favourable conditions helped slow the advance of the front.
Following the horror of the Black Summer bushfires, she said the latest blaze brought difficult memories flooding back.
“It was pretty nerve-racking knowing there was a fire which flared up so quickly yesterday,” she said.
“The memories flared back up. Seeing the fire trucks, watching the smoke go up brought the memories back.”
https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/south-coast-bushfires-two-homes-destroyed-dozens-more-damaged-in-fires-near-bermagui-coolagolite/news-story/12eb0d3adc96fe3eb55373158c99d6d7 South Coast bushfires: Three homes destroyed, dozens more damaged in fires near Bermagui, Coolagolite