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Sydney is bracing for 'catastrophic

A firefighter battles a blaze in Old Bar, NSW on Saturday. Courtesy: AAP

Greater Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Shoalhaven residents are bracing for “off the scale” fire danger tomorrow.

The NSW Rural Fire Service have determined the fire risk as “catastrophic”, the first time this level of danger has been forecast for Sydney.

“Catastrophic is the highest level of bushfire danger. Homes are not designed to withstand a fire under these conditions,” the RFS said.

If a fire starts and takes hold during Catastrophic fire danger conditions, lives and homes will be at risk.

A statewide total fire ban has been declared for all areas of NSW for today and tomorrow.


“It’s where people die,” NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says.

Residents are being warned fires under these conditions are hard to suppress and homes will burn.
People are being told to leave for their survival now.

This is the first catastrophic declaration for Sydney since a new rating system came into effect 10 years ago.


– The Hunter: Cessnock, Dungog, Lake Macquarie, Singleton and the Upper Hunter.

– Greater Sydney: 35 local government areas running from beachside suburbs like Manly to the Blue Mountains in the west. The danger areas are listed below.

– Sydney West and Inner West: Burwood, Canada Bay, Strathfield, Blacktown, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Liverpool, Parramatta Penrith, Sydney (includes some inner west suburbs).

– Sydney East: Randwick, Sydney, Waverley, Woollahra.

– North and North West: Camden, Central Coast, The Hills, Hawkesbury, Hunters Hill, Ku-ring-gai, Lane Cove, Mosman, North Sydney, Northern Beaches, Ryde, Willoughby.

– South and South West: Georges River, Kogarah, Sutherland.


– Australia’s worst bushfire tragedy was the Black Saturday fires of February 2009, which killed 173 people and destroyed thousands of homes. It would have carried a catastrophic rating under the present system.

– The current fire danger flags a similar level of destructive force.

– The catastrophic rating for Greater Sydney is “unprecedented” but there have been one or two warnings for other parts of the state in the past decade.

– “We’ve got to keep reminding ourselves that catastrophic is off the conventional scale,” Mr Fitzsimmons said.