Firefighters are battling several out-of-control bushfires across NSW with strong winds causing challenging conditions for crews.
Despite cooler weather across NSW, strong and damaging winds of up to 70km/h are expected to ramp up fire activity with very high fire dangers in the state’s far north coast, north coast and New England areas.
“Those winds are still firing up the fire danger,” a NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman said on Sunday.
Firefighting efforts on Sunday have been focused on two out-of-control blazes at Bees Nest in Armidale and Long Gully Road in Drake, east of Tenterfield, which are both at watch-and-act alert level.
The Bees Nest blaze, which is burning on multiple fronts, has torched more than 56,000 hectares, twice the size of the Sydney city council area.
A large spot fire is also burning in Muldiva State Forest with crews working to slow its spread.
The Long Gully Road fire has burnt more than 22,000 hectares and is expected to reach the village of Drake later on Sunday, the RFS said on Twitter.
Residents near both fires have been advised to enact their bushfire survival plans.
A third out of control blaze in Shark Creek on the NSW north coast was raised to watch-and-act alert level about 11am on Sunday.
The fire has burnt through 2300 hectares with crews warning residents to be aware of spot fires.
A number of homes have been lost or damaged by fires in the state since Friday with RFS building impact assessment teams on Sunday planning to visit areas they haven’t been able to reach before because of fire activity.
A 66-year-old volunteer firefighter was on Friday hospitalised after his hands, arm, legs, back, face and airways were burned while he and a colleague fought a fire at Mount Mackenzie Road south of Tenterfield.
Neville Smith is in a critical but stable condition at Royal Brisbane Hospital.
The Mount Mackenzie Road blaze has burned more than 3500 hectares and on Sunday morning was being controlled by firefighters.
One home has been destroyed in the fire, four have been damaged and three facilities, including two car yards, have been ruined.
More than 50 fires remain burning across the state, with 18 of them still uncontained as of midday on Sunday.
Armidale, Clarence Valley, Glen Innes, Inverell, Tenterfield, Uralla and Walcha local government areas have been declared natural disaster zones, allowing residents to access state and federal financial support.
The Insurance Council has also declared a catastrophe for bushfires that have destroyed homes or property in the state’s north, giving priority to claims from affected policyholders.