Australia — Winds have dropped on the NSW mid-north coast, allowing firefighters to better control blazes.
NSW firefighters are on the front foot against bushfires on the state’s mid-north coast, with local residents granted a reprieve by the easing winds.
Forty properties in the Taree and Great Lakes areas had been threatened when soaring temperatures and fierce gusts helped stoke fires, but Rural Fire Service spokesman Ben Shepherd told ABC Radio that conditions were improving on Thursday night.
“The main thing is the winds have dropped,” he said.
“Initially this afternoon, we saw wind gusts in excess of 60-70km/h, even as high as 90km/h, across some of these firegrounds and that’s what caused a number of these fires to flare up and run and run quite hard.”
Further south near Newcastle, four teenagers have been arrested over a bushfire that forced the evacuation of a Scout camp northwest of Newcastle.
About 60 children had to leave Glenrock Scout Camp on Thursday due to a blaze that prompted a police investigation into suspicious fires in the Glenrock State Conservation area.
“Officers from NSW Fire and Rescue have been fighting a number of fires in the conservation area between Dudley and Merewether Heights,” a police spokesman told AAP.
“Four teenage males … have been taken to Belmont Police Station, where they are assisting police with their inquiries.”
Scouts NSW communications and development manager Rosalie Batistoni told AAP the scouts were all safe after being moved to a local bowls club.
A blaze south of Taree, near Old Bar Rd, has burnt over 100 hectares and firefighters are still working to protect homes.
The fire forced the Pacific Highway to close but it has since been reopened.
Meanwhile, fire has destroyed some sheds in Shallow Bay and burned through 70 hectares of bushland.
The RFS has now down-graded fire alerts for both blazes to “watch and act”, urging residents to keep monitoring the situation and be prepared to react quickly.
Reception centres for residents unable to return home have been set up at Club Taree and Club Old Bar.
Club Old Bar manager Tony Jones said 300 locals had holed up at the establishment, some bringing their cats and dogs.
“A lot of kids are upset,” he told AAP.
“The uncertainty is the worst at the moment.”
The RFS is battling 50 fires across the state, 20 which are uncontained. NSW Fire and Rescue said they were dealing with more than 100 smaller bush and grass fires, mostly in western Sydney.
Damaging winds were also felt at the Sydney Airport, where a 80km/h crosswind forced a Jetstar flight from the Gold Coast to pull out of its landing just 30 metres from the runway.
“It was probably the worst flight we have been on,” passenger Steve Ovani told Network Ten.
Falling trees cut off electricity to about 4000 homes in Sydney, with areas including Lane Cove, Rozelle and Chatswood affected shortly after 2pm (AEST).
The State Emergency Service received 500 jobs, mainly for fallen trees and roof damage, spokeswoman Sue Pritchard said.
In the CBD, the gusty winds blew out shop fronts and high-rise windows, Ten reported.
Elsewhere, Thredbo recorded winds of up to 111km/h, while Goulburn, the Southern Tablelands and the Hunter all experienced winds of more than 95km/h.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s Francois Geffroy said conditions were expected to ease further overnight.