Sydney, New South Wales, Australia — Bushfires are raging in the Blue Mountains today but by tonight the area is expected to be blanketed with snow.
Strong winds and dry conditions are causing erratic fire conditions for crews fighting two blazes burning in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.
One fire is two kilometres north of Mount Victoria while the other is burning near the Grose River, five kilometres north of Blackheath.
About 150 members of the Rural Fire Service (RFS) and NSW Fire Brigades are working to contain the fires and six aircraft are water bombing the area.
RFS spokeswoman Rebel Talbot said the fires were believed to have been started by lightning strikes on Monday and fanned by strong winds.
The same winds are expected to deliver a sharp drop in temperatures across the state by this evening, along with snow to some parts of the state.
“That cold air mass is going to be shooting north across NSW and we expect snow to develop further north around our central ranges and potentially the Blue Mountains as well and possibly even as far up as our northern ranges, near Armidale,” meteorologist Rob Webb told smh.com.au.
“To have [bushfires and snow] in the one place in the one day, it is quite a rare event,” he said.
Snow falls have already been reported at Thredbo and Bombala in the state’s south while temperatures in Sydney are expected to drop to a maximum of about 17 degrees tomorrow, he said.
The winter-like conditions should see the strong winds easing, giving some respite to the firefighters.
Ms Talbot told AAP: “We’ve got some really erratic fire conditions, very strong winds, that are coming through the area.
“Temperatures aren’t high, between 10 and 13 degrees, but last night we saw some of the erratic behaviour when one of the fires crowned up and then literally jumped from a ridge top into the next valley.
“That’s purely because of how dry it is so drought conditions are taking hold in this area as well.”
She said fire crews had worked through the night to protect three properties threatened by fire on the Darling Causeway.
No homes were under threat and no property damage had been reported.
But RFS Commissioner Phil Koperberg said winds of up to 50kmh were making it very difficult for fire crews trying to contain the blaze.
“These fires have got severe potential for the upper Blue Mountains,” Mr Koperberg told ABC radio.
“Traditionally, once fire gets into the Grose Valley it poses a threat to the towns south of the Grose Valley virtually panning from Mount Victoria in the west through to the middle mountain townships.
“But we are nowhere near that situation and we don’t see it being in a situation where these fires are going to be a major threat to property.”
Mr Koperberg said resources would be concentrated at these two fires as there were not many fires burning elsewhere in the state.
The Main Western Railway is closed in the vicinity of the fire and train operations have been disrupted.