FAMILIES in the areas surrounding Sydney were today told it was "too late to leave" as more than 100 blazes continue to rage across Australia.
Strong winds and record temperatures have seen wildfires tear through an area bigger then Belgium in recent months, with at least nine dead and 800 homes destroyed so far.
Alerts of "catastrophic conditions" have been issued, with residents asked to avoid all but absolutely necessary travel in the vicinity of fires.
On Saturday, the fire service in the state of New South Wales issued warnings for much of the area surrounding Sydney.
Statements posted on social media told residents of towns throughout the Budawang, Budderoo, Kanangra-Boyd, and Blue Mountains national parks: "It is too late to leave.
"Seek shelter as the fire approaches.
"Seek shelter in a solid structure to protect yourself from the heat of the fire."
VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS AMONG DEAD
On Thursday, two firefighters were killed when their truck rolled off the road after being hit by a falling tree as they travelled in a convoy.
Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O'Dwyer, 36, both dads to young children, had been volunteering with the Rural Fire Service (RFS) in an area south of Sydney.
RFS commissioner for New South Wales Shane Fitzsimmons said both men were "well-respected" and from a "close-knit brigade", and that their families were in "extraordinary shock".
Three other firefighters suffered burns in the accident, while the ambulance service said four firefighters in NSW were treated for heat exhaustion on Saturday.
One who collapsed is reported to have opened his eyes and told a Sydney resident: "We saved your house mate."
Two people have been confirmed to have died today in the hills outside Adelaide in the neighbouring state of South Australia.
Also badly affected have been the eastern states of Queensland and Victoria.
Speaking at a press conference, Fitzsimmons said: "Catastrophic fire conditions are as bad as it gets.
"They are the very worst of conditions.
"Given we have a landscape with so much active fire burning, you have a recipe for very serious concern and a very dangerous day.
“We have seen property impacted and lost.
"We have 3,000 firefighters and emergency services personnel out there dealing with the fires.
“We will not get on top of these fires until we get some decent rain - we have said that for weeks and months.”
The government's Bureau of Meteorology said that no significant rainfall was expected in the country over the next couple of months.
FIGHTING BACKVigilante Brit families forced to patrol Costa Blanca streets after attacks
'THANKS C**T FACE'Mum, 19, returns to car with baby & finds VERY rude note in parking row
NAN’S THE WORDHot gran so sick of pics being blocked she’s posing as man to beat algorithm
'IS IT CONTAGIOUS?'Trolls urge mum to KILL baby over birthmark as priest refuses baptism
BITE CLUBHero dad saves son, 4, from 15ft python's jaws by punching beast in the head
GROPE ISLANDDutch Love Island CANCELLED after male contestant rips off girl’s underwear
Prime minister Scott Morrison had also faced criticism for going on holiday with his family to Hawaii during the crisis, but is expected to return early to Australia today.
He said in a statement: "I deeply regret any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time."
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online news team? Email us at [email protected] or call 0207 782 4368 . We pay for videos too. Click here to upload yours