Australia — A midsummer blast of cold weather has lessened the bushfire threat in NSW, although drizzle has hampered backburning in some areas as several blazes continue to burn.
Fire behaviour was low-key on Wednesday as the mercury struggled to reach 20 degrees around Sydney, although it was higher inland.
But it was a far cry from 44 degree temperatures on Sunday, when fires swept through the central coast and farmland around Junee, in the state’s south-west, gutting eight houses and burnt out vast tracts of land.
As Acting Prime Minister Mark Vaile, Deputy Premier John Watkins and Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Phil Koperberg visited fire-ravaged properties near Junee, the NSW government declared three regions natural disaster zones.
Wednesday’s declarations mean the local government areas of Gosford, Junee and Upper Lachlan are eligible for extra assistance under the natural disaster relief arrangements.
Mr Koperberg on Wednesday said the bushfire threat had eased in southern NSW but other areas of the state remained a concern.
“By this evening this fire will be effectively mopped up and probably declared safe,” he told reporters at Junee, where more than 20,000 sheep were lost in a blaze which has burnt out about 30,000 hectares of land.
However, other areas of the state, including the central coast, remained trouble spots.
“On the central coast a lot of work remains to be done and there is probably another 72 hours of work before those fires are contained,” Mr Koperberg said.
“But we’re confident because we don’t have a return to critical weather for the next 72 hours, that within three days or so that fire should also be contained.”
RFS spokeswoman Meeka Bailey said drizzle on Wednesday had prevented backburning on the central coast, where a fire that destroyed three houses near Woy Woy on Sunday continued to burn.
“(The rain) has stopped us from doing any backburning work today and we still haven’t got full containment lines on that fire,” she said.
“It’s not posing a threat but it’s certainly not out.”
A fire had been brought under control near Boorowa, in the state’s south-west, she said.
But a large fire continued to burn uncontrolled in the remote Weddin Mountains National Park, near Grenfell.
“That one’s not contained,” Ms Bailey said.
“It’s within the national park so it’s not causing a problem for private property but because it’s in quite an inaccessible area it’s difficult to contain.
“We’re planning on doing aerial incendiary (backburning) tonight.”
Three strike teams from Sydney have travelled to the Weddin Mountains to reinforce firefighting efforts.
Ms Bailey said relatively mild weather conditions would prevail over the coming days, giving firefighters a reprieve.
“While they’re predicting high fire dangers in western areas, it’s not going to be like the sort of conditions we experienced last Sunday,” she said.
About 500 firefighters, including the sky crane Rocky, are battling blazes around NSW.