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Sydney bushfires: South Turramurra blaze burning out of control as fireys fear wind change

Fires are already burning out of control in Sydney's north ahead of a wind change at 6pm that could send infernos in a completely new direction, spelling disaster for at risk areas.

Firefighters have been on high-alert since early Tuesday morning, with a mix of 37C temperatures and winds of up to 90km/h leaving conditions in many parts of New South Wales to be given a 'catastrophic' rating.

A fire is currently burning out of control in forest near South Turramurra, with flames leaping high into the air.

The blaze began just after 4.20pm on Tuesday, with an RFS operated Hercules helicopter dropping fire retardant on the area around Cunoon Road at about 4.45pm.

Residents in the South Turramurra area have been told it is too late to leave. 

While temperatures across NSW should drop by up to 10C this evening, the hour between 6pm and 7pm is the time that experts claim could be the most dangerous for areas around Sydney, including the Blue Mountains.

A change in winds forecast for this time could see fires switch directions instantly, turning the flank of blazes that are under control into towering walls of fire. 

Those fighting the fires in northern NSW will be on edge well into the night, with the strong winds not expected to reach Taree and surrounding areas until closer to midnight.

At 5pm there were more than 50 blazes burning in both NSW and Queensland with up to 20,000 firefighters trying to stop them spreading, and the Army preparing to use helicopters to evacuate residents whose lives are at risk.  

Thousands of residents on the NSW mid-north coast have already been told that it is too late to leave their homes.

Scroll down for video 

An out of control fire is currently burning in forrest near South Turramurra, in Sydney's north, with flames leaping into the air

Houses in the danger area at South Turramurra were left covered in pink fire retardant after an RFS Hercules helicopter drop

While temperatures will drop come evening, a change in wind between 6pm and 7pm could spell disaster for at-risk areas. If winds hit the predicted 90km/h range fires could change direction in an instant, turning small blazes into massive fire fronts (pictured)

Long night ahead: The firefighters in the mid-north are facing a long night ahead as a southerly wind picks up around midnight and into Wednesday morning. Pictured: A firefighter at Koorainghat on Tuesday

Jamie Fato tries to stop an out of control fire entering Owen Whalan's property at Koorainghat, near Taree, on the Mid North Coast region of NSW, on Tuesday

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian declared a 'state of emergency' on Sunday, handing control over the management of the bushfires to the Rural Fire Service.

As part of this move, RFS officers have the ability to force people to evacuate at risk areas even if they want to stay and defend their homes.  

Sydneysiders woke up to a smoky but calm morning with two infernos - one in the Hawkesbury and another in the Blue Mountains - under control.

But fire bosses warned against complacency and said the fires are likely to spread throughout the day, potentially threatening 100,000 homes around the Harbour City.

Between 1pm and 2.30pm today the number of fires under emergency status in mid-north NSW rapidly increased from five to ten as firefighters brace for 'really long night' when winds pick up after dark.

Rural Fire Service NSW commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says Tuesday is playing out as predicted with average winds up to 60km/h across the ranges, with gusts over 70km/h. 

'The reality is conditions will simply continue to get worse and deteriorate over the coming hours,' Mr Fitzsimmons said.

'They will continue to strengthen and build ahead of the passage of that cold front that's moving across the state.

'Later on today, we're expecting the southerly to start influencing and driving like a southerly buster up the coastal strip, and more southwesterly-southerly across the ranges and further inland.'

While a cool change would normally be seen as good news, meteorologist Rob Sharpe explained the dangers of it to Sky News. 

'Any fires burning near the coast will become extremely dangerous as the change arrives as the fire flank will suddenly become the fire front,' Mr Sharpe said.

'We've noticed that at 9am the cool change crossed the Victorian and NSW border slightly ahead of the forecast.

'The southerly buster is due to reach Wollongong around 5pm, Sydney at 6pm or 7pm and Newcastle close to 8pm.'  

The suburbs most directly at risk of fire are near the bushland areas around the city such as the Hawkesbury region and Hornsby in the north, Penrith in the west and Camden, Campbelltown and Sutherland in the south. Fire chiefs cannot predict exactly where fires will be and have urged residents to keep up with the situation which may change due to the weather

The shirts of their back: The three men successful managed to put out the majority of this blaze, but know there is more ahead

Desperate measures: Residents try to knock down spot fires, from a bushfire, heading towards a house on a property at Koorainghat, near Taree on Tuesday

On hand: A brave firefighter works to contain a fire at Koorainghat, near Taree, New South Wales on Tuesday

Disaster looming: Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said firefighters and affected communities were facing 'a really long night' as winds strengthened. Pictured: Flames burn at Half Chain road at Koorainghat on Tuesday

Protecting their land: Residents try to contain a fire at Koorainghat, near Taree, New South Wales on Wednesday

Adding to the pain for firefighters and residents in at-risk is a distinct lack of rain on the horizon over coming days.

In fact according to RFS commissioner Mr Fitzsimmons, dry and warm conditions are due to dominate for the days and weeks, with 

'As we look out a little bit further, we're expecting a cyclical pattern of increasing temperatures as we head into the end of this week and indeed as we head into next week,' he said.

'It's going to be a long, difficult fire season, and we've got the worst of our conditions typically ahead of us over the coming months as we head into summer.' 

Everything that can be done is being done 

Scott Morrison on Tuesday 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned against complacency, saying this morning was the 'calm before the storm'.

'We're not expecting the front until the early afternoon around 2pm... it will be a strong wind and will blow its way all the way up the coast,' he told Ray Hadley on radio station 2GB on Tuesday morning. 

But the PM tried to prevent mass panic, adding: 'Just want to assure people, Ray, that everything that can be done is being done.'  

'The one mercy in all this is there's been a few days to prepare and for people to prepare and I trust people have done that,' he said. 

A fire at Mount Gosper in the Hawkesbury was put out at around 2pm - around the same that another grass fire flared out of control in Penrith, while a blaze at Woodford in the Blue Mountains remained under control.

In a press conference at 2pm, Mr Fitzsimmons said he hoped there would be no new fires around Sydney. 

'Touch wood, we don't have any significant outbreaks of new fire at this stage, causing any issue. But we still can't rule that out,' he said.   

BEFORE: Clear skies and green trees stretch behind the bright coastline at Dunbogan Beach
AFTER: The usually blue water is transformed into a violent orange, as reflected by the smokey skies

Slide me

Before and after: Clear skies and green trees that stretched behind the bright coastline at Dunbogan Beach (left) transformed into a violent orange, as reflected by the smokey skies (right)

Warning: Fire bosses warned against complacency and said the fires are likely to spread throughout the day. Pictured: A fire near Taree, mid New South Wales on Monday

Blaze: A firefighter battles the flames during bushfires near Taree on the mid-north coast of New South Wales on Monday

Destruction: An aerial view shows burnt bushland near Port Macquarie, with some trees orange and others turned to ash

Apocalyptic: There was so much ash on the ground after bushland was burnt in Port Macquarie that it looked like snow

Further north, the towns of Coffs Harbour and Nambucca Heads are bracing for catastrophe as fires there are expected to burn all the way to the coast on Tuesday afternoon. 

As of 2.30pm there were ten fires under emergency status in New South Wales on the mid-north coast - as firefighters prepared for a long night.

A blaze at Thunderbolts Way in Bretti, northwest of Taree, is burning across 10,000 hectares and is out of control, while residents at Nowendoc and Mount George have been told 'it is too late to leave'.

Another out-of-control fire at nearby Hillville is burning across nearly 20,000ha.

There are also emergency fires further north, at Llangothlin north of Armidale, and Torrington north of Glen Innes, with the latter blaze already razing 60,000ha.

A fifth emergency was also issued at Carrai East in Willi Willi National Park, northwest of Port Macquarie, for an out-of-control fire over 75,000ha. The fire is heading towards east towards Kempsey, with those in the town's west under threat.

There are two fires in Queensland with prepare to leave warnings at Townson and Clumber. 

Meanwhile, police have warned about criminals looting from the ruined houses of devastated bushfire victims in the mid-north coast of NSW.

NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys said any thefts would be 'thoroughly' investigated, adding: 'These communities have suffered enough without individuals stealing what items they have left.'

Four people were charged by NSW Police on Tuesday afternoon for breaching a total fire ban, including a nine-year-old boy.

The youngster was caught using a blowtorch to light a fire in long grass behind Sullivan Street at Worrigee, near Nowra.  

Burning: The moon at over the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Monday morning appears orange amid smoke from bushfires

Morning has broken: The Sydney skyline is seen from Balmain as winds blow smoke from bushfires over the CBD on Tuesday

Smoke on the water: Sydney was shrouded in a cloud of smog on Tuesday morning amid devastating bushfires

Map of horror: Weatherzone reported that Tuesday's 'southerly buster' (pictured) will cause fires burning near the NSW coast to change direction 

Mr Fitzsimmons said the RFS had taken all necessary preparations, but were still left to hope for the best. 

'We plan for these sorts of days but we always hope they never come,' he said on Tuesday morning.

'We are planned, we are escalated to a heightened level of stand-by and readiness in anticipation of anything that might break out today.

'All that can be done is being done. All that needs to be done today will be done. We need everybody to do their part.' 

Amid the dangerous conditions, the Rural Fire Service urged residents to report anyone tossing a lit cigarette, which carries a $1,320 fine on total fire ban days such as today.

On Monday the Rural Fire Service warned residents in dangerous areas to escape while there was still time.

'Some fires may start and spread so quickly there is little time for a warning, so do not wait and see,' a statement read.

'There are simply not enough fire trucks for every house. If you call for help, you may not get it. Do not expect a firetruck. Do not expect a knock on the door. Do not expect a phone call. Your safest option will always be to leave early.'   

Mr Fitzsimmons urged people living in areas facing the worst threat - including the North Shore, the Hawkesbury region, Penrith, Campbelltown and Sutherland - to leave now. 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian declared a state of emergency on Monday, the first since the Blue Mountains bushfires in 2013, warning, 'tomorrow is not the day to be complacent'.

'You might think you're OK and a few minutes later you won't be. Please heed all the messages you receive,' 'Ms Berejiklian said. 

Escaped with their lives: Lyn and Peter Iverson with their burnt out office and shed on their property at Half Chain road, Koorainghat in New South Wales on Monday

Devastation: A home destroyed by bushfire in Koorainghat, south of Taree in New South Wales on Monday

Officials have advised people to evacuate while they can saying emergency services will not be able to save everyone. Pictured: Flames encroaching a residential street in Harrington, on the Mid North Coast, on Friday

Residents across Sydney and NSW are facing 'catastrophic' conditions on Tuesday as rising temperatures are expected to aggravate bushfires. Pictured: Firefighters tackle wildfires in Taree, 350km north of Sydney on Saturday 

Nervous wait: Wytaliba resident Storm Sparks holds her son Zeke Bacon as she waits to get back to her house at a roadblock near Glen Innes on Monday

Fire Fighters inspect burnt vintage motor bikes in Torrington on November 11, 2019 in Torrington, Australia

So far, fires in the NSW north-east have claimed three lives, destroyed more than 150 homes, and razed more than 1 million hectares (3,800 square miles) of forest and farmland since Friday. 

The week-long declaration of a state of emergency gives the Rural Fire Service sweeping powers to control resources and direct other government agencies. 

Taken too soon: The victims of the killer bushfires 

Lost to fire: Vivian Chaplain, 69, a grandmother of six

Julie Fletcher, 63: The dairy cattle farmer's body was found in the burnt out remains of her Johns River home near Taree on Saturday afternoon.

She had her car packed with possessions, ready to evacuate but didn't make it out in time. 

Vivian Chaplain, 69: The Grandmother of six also died while trying to save her Wytaliba property more than 400 kilometres away near Glen Innes.

George Nole, age unknown: His body was found in a burnt-out car in Wytaliba on Saturday morning. 

Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell issued an order to local base commanders to use defence resources in fire efforts. 

Firefighter strike teams have also been transported from Canberra, Adelaide and Hobart to Port Macquarie. 

More than 400 NSW schools were closed on Tuesday, including about 300 public schools and more than 100 Catholic and independent schools. More than 50 did not operate on Monday. About 20 TAFE campuses will also close.   

'Safety remains the number one priority. If it is not safe to travel to school please do not attend and inform the school of your intention,' NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell warned.  

Doctors and paramedics have already treated more than 100 people for fire-related injuries, including 20 firefighters, Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan said.

Authorities said the catastrophic fire danger rating is in effect for the Greater Sydney, Greater Hunter, Illawarra/Shoalhaven areas.  

But fire bosses have warned 'no area is entirely safe' as high winds could send dangerous embers capable of sparking secondary fires towards beachside suburbs such as Manly and even Sydney's CBD.

Ben Shepheard of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service warned that 'everywhere in Sydney', as well as surrounding areas, may be affected. 

'The high winds we are expecting on Tuesday mean that embers travel large distances. For example, if there is a fire in Garigal National Park then embers may fall in and around Manly,' he told Daily Mail Australia.    

Map of horror: A diagram issued by the Rural Fire Service warns of a catastrophic danger - the highest level - to the Greaterv Sydney and Greater Hunter regions as temperatures will hit 37C on Tuesday

Sydney braces for fire: How NSW's government agencies are preparing for the worst

NSW Police have released important public information regarding bush fires as the state braces for 'catastrophic' conditions tomorrow

DEFENCE AID:

Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell has issued an order to local base commanders to make clear they can use defence resources in the fire effort.   

RAAF aircraft have transported firefighter strike teams from Canberra, Adelaide and Hobart to Port Macquarie.

Singleton Army Barracks in NSW is on stand-by to provide accommodation and catering support to firefighters from the Victorian Country Fire Authority.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Service are using Kokoda Barracks in Canungra to refuel aircraft.

Defence has embedded planners into Queensland State Disaster Coordination Centres and New South Wales Rural Fire Service headquarters.

SCHOOLS: 

More than 400 schools across the state will be shut, including about 300 public schools and more than 100 Catholic and independent schools.

About 20 TAFE campuses will also close.

'Safety remains the number one priority. If is not safe to travel to school please do not attend and inform the school of your intention,' Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said. 

A list of the affect schools can be found on NSW Department of Education's website, which will be updated throughout the day.    

AREAS AT RISK:   

RFS has issued a catastrophic fire danger rating for the Greater Sydney, Greater Hunter, Illawarra/Shoalhaven areas.

Catastrophic is the highest level of bush fire dangers and homes are not designed to withstand a fire in these conditions. 

While there are large population centres under catastrophic conditions, there are also large areas of Severe and Extreme fire danger.

This includes areas where we already have dangerous fires burning – and these conditions will be worse than those experienced last week.

A Total Fire Ban is in place for the whole of the state.

WARNINGS:  

RFS is urging residents to stay up to date on fires in their area by downloading the 'Fires Near Me' app: https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fires-near-me.

Residents are advised to evacuate as soon as they sense danger as some fires could start and spread quickly with little warning, and emergency services are not guaranteed to arrive in time.   

What to do:

  • Start taking action now to reduce your risk.
  • Avoid bush fire prone areas. If your home is in a bush fire prone area, the safest option is to not be there.
  • Do not travel through bushland areas.
  • A safer location may be a large town or city, shopping centres or facilities well away from bushland. It may also be a designated 'Neighbourhood Safer Place'.
  • A Neighbourhood Safer Place is designed as a Place of Last Resort in bush fire emergencies only. Please note that travelling to or sheltering at a Neighbourhood Safer Place does not guarantee your safety. 
  • People with special needs, such as the elderly and people with a disability, should always leave before the threat of bush fire.
  • If you're preparing to leave, make sure you pack your medications, including those in the fridge. Smoke can cause health problems, particularly for people with pre-existing lung and heart conditions like asthma, emphysema, angina or heart failure. 
  • Avoid outdoor physical activity if it's smoky, particularly if you have a pre-existing condition like asthma. People with asthma should follow their asthma management plans. If you have asthma, make sure you keep your reliever medication close to hand. 
  • If it is unsafe to leave the area or stay and defend your property, and the path is clear, you should move to your pre-identified Neighbourhood Safer Place, or other safer location, prior to the impact of a bush fire.
  • Be aware that when you are travelling to your Neighbourhood Safer Place there may be heavy smoke and poor visibility.
  • It is important that you are familiar with the area. Gather at the Neighbourhood Safer Place location and remain there until the bush fire threat has passed.
  • The conditions at the Neighbourhood Safer Place may be uncomfortable and you may be affected by heat, smoke and embers.
  • Water, toilets and food may not be available at the Neighbourhood Safer Place and emergency service personnel may not be present.
  • Neighbourhood Safer Places are not intended for pets and livestock. 
  • For more information about the fires, contact the Bush Fire Information Line - 1800 679 737

Bureau of Meteorology (BoM):

A strong cold front will move through NSW on Tuesday, with hot, dry and gusty conditions ahead of the front generating very dangerous fire conditions over the ranges, slopes and coast.

All people in bush fire prone areas in NSW need to have a bush fire plan, remain vigilant, and monitor warnings and messages from the RFS.

Damaging wind gusts are also possible over parts of the southern ranges, Illawarra, Sydney coastal fringe and Hunter Coastal Fringe on Tuesday. Areas of raised dust are also forecast west of the Great Dividing Range, and there is a change that this system will bring dust to some coastal districts.

EVACUATION CENTRES:

Evacuation Centres are in place throughout fire-affected areas of the state. The most up-to-date information is available at https://www.emergency.nsw.gov.au/Pages/for-the-community/disaster-assistance/disaster-assistance.aspx

The NSW Police Force keep their Facebook page up to date with evacuation centres that re open. Please monitor https://www.facebook.com/nswpoliceforce/ 

TRANSPORT:

Motorists should delay all non-essential travel.

Many roads remain closed due to bush fires. Be prepared for conditions to change quickly and roads to close suddenly.

If you need to travel, also make sure you've got water, food, supplies and a full tank of fuel. Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged before you set out.

If you're already travelling when a bush fire starts, follow the directions of emergency services personnel.

Due to fire activity, both man and local roads may close without warning. For the latest information on road closures, check www.livetraffic.com or download the Live Traffic NSW app or call 132 701.

All North Coast Train Services, from Sydney to Casino and Sydney to Grafton and their return trips have been cancelled until Wednesday due to the bush fires. Passengers are advised to delay any non-essential travel to the bush fire-affected areas.

For the latest information on public transport, check transportnsw.info or download a transport app or call 131 500. 

NSW AMBULANCE

NSW Ambulance recommends if anyone sustains any form of burn they should cool the affected area immediately with water – ideally running water – for a minimum of 20 minutes (for eyes ensure you flush the eye) and seek medical attention. 

NSW Ambulance is always here to help - never be afraid to call Triple Zero. 

AGRICULTURE & ANIMAL SERVICES:

Include your animals in your bush fire plan.

If you can, take your animals with you. Assistance from AASFA is available if you attend an evacuation centre.

For those impacted and seeking assistance for emergency fodder, emergency water (for immediate animal welfare cases only) or animal assessment (resulting from the fires) please contact the AASFA Hotline on 1800 814 647.

NSW ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AUTHORITY (EPA): 

Large volumes of waste have been generated from the bush fires and the EPA will work with local authorities to ensure the waste can be appropriately moved and disposed of when it is safe to do so.

The EPA is also monitoring impacts on its licensed premises and providing advice to licensees about how to manage their sites given the challenging conditions.

The community can report environmental concerns to the Environment Line 24/7 on 131 555.

RECOVERY: 

The State Emergency Recovery Controller has indicated a State Recovery Committee will be established to coordinate the significant recovery effort resulting from this event. The EPA will play a key role on the state level and related regional level committees which are likely to be active for the remainder of the bush fire season.

UTILITIES:  

Keep at least 8 metres away from fallen power lines or objects that may be energised, such as fences.

Report fallen power lines to either Ausgrid (131 388), Endeavour Energy (131 003), Essential Energy (132 080) or Evoenergy (131 093) as shown on your power bill.   

On guard: NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured on Monday at RFS HQ) officially declared a state of emergency which will last for seven days - as fire chiefs warned the infernos will be too dangerous to put out

Ravaged: A burnt car at a property destroyed by a bushfire near Glen Innes, New South Wales - as the worst is yet to come

 Sydney nursing homes and aged care centres are also preparing for the worst and have been reviewing evacuation plans.  

In Sydney's Northern Beaches, police issued a statement on social media on Monday warning residents that tomorrow 'will not be a normal day.' 

'We're hoping for the best but planning for the worst. The best is no fires,' they said in a Facebook post. 'The worst is a 1 in 100 year event.' 

Fire chiefs warned that conditions could be so bad that it will be too dangerous for firefighters to try to put out the flames. 

Some 400 firefighters are flying in from interstate and 50 firetrucks are driving up from Victoria to be stationed in the Hunter region, north of Sydney. 

The fires are producing so much smoke that Brisbane's air quality is three times worse than Beijing's - as the smog blows as far east as New Zealand and Vanuatu.  

Over the weekend a man and two women in their sixties died in northern New South Wales as they attempted to flee too late - and more than 100 people, including 20 firefighters, have been injured.

Apocalyptic footage showed the sky over Port Macquarie turn a vibrant orange due to the flames and smoke on Sunday night.

Millions of dollars worth of damage has been caused as insurance companies send specialist disaster teams into fire-ravaged areas, with 150 claims lodged by 11am on Monday, according to the Insurance Council.

Climate change campaigners are blaming the disaster on global warming - but Scott Morrison on Sunday refused to comment on whether climate change is a factor.

'My only thoughts today are with those who have lost their lives and their families,' he said after he was heckled by a protester in Taree where he was visiting victims.

Ms Berejiklian mimicked his stance on Monday, saying: 'I thought it was inappropriate that people were trying to talk about climate change yesterday when people wanted to stay alive.'

The Sydney councils suffering 'catastrophic' fire conditions on Tuesday: A full list

The Hills

Blacktown

Blue Mountains

Burwood

Camden

Campbelltown

Canada Bay

Fairfield

Hawkesbury 

Hornsby

Hunters Hill  

Kogarah

Ku-ring-gai

Lane Cove

Liverpool

Mosman

North Sydney  

Parramatta 

Penrith 

Randwick 

Ryde

Strathfield  

Sutherland

Sydney

Waverley

 Willoughby 

Woollahra 

Bayside

Canterbury-Bankstown

Central Coast

Cumberland

Georges River

Inner West

Northern Beaches  

Source: NSW RFS

Destruction: A firefighter works to contain a bushfire near Taree, New South Wales by spraying water on a smoldering tree

Damage: On Sunday a fire truck was hit by falling branches at Nambucca Heads and two firefighters were rushed to hospital with injuries

Ruins: A house destroyed by a bushfire is seen in Torrington, near Glen Innes. Dozens of homes have been ruined by the fires

Fires take their toll: More than 100 are hurt by infernos 

Doctors and paramedics on the ground have treated more than 100 people hurt during NSW's devastating bushfires, 20 of them firefighters injured trying to protect communities. 

NSW Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan is considering bringing in extra resources from interstate.

'Over the last few days our doctors and paramedics have been exceedingly busy; they've treated over 100 patients for fire-related activity,' he told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

'We had a whole range of things that have been confirmed from very severe burns, sadly resulting in a loss of life in some instances, right down to minor injuries and minor burns.'

Mr Morgan paid tribute to the firefighters his teams had treated who were injured in the line of duty.

'That's something that we should all be recognising,' he said.

'Up to 20 (of the people treated) have been directly related to firefighters being injured while protecting their own communities.'

Mr Morgan said 30 additional ambulance crews would be deployed across the state to ensure additional protection as well as extra air assets.

Keeping watch: Firefighters keep a close eye on a bushfire approaching in Old Bar, New South Wales as they battle to control the blazes

Smoldering: Fire burns on Bolivia Hill near Glen Innes on Sunday. Firefighters are struggling to contain blazes across the east

'It wasn't a bushfire, it was a firestorm': Residents tell of horror as homes are destroyed 

Residents thought they were going to die huddled in their small NSW community's fire station during an 'apocalyptic' bushfire that sounded like a freight train and rained down embers and soot.

The Northern Tablelands village of Torrington, population 81, lost a dozen homes on Friday as the worst fire in living memory engulfed the town.

While some residents fled early on Friday, Linda Birch was among those to take refuge in the town's metal fire station.

Smoke soon crept under the doors of the shed as embers bombarded the vents.

'It wasn't a bushfire, it was a firestorm,' she told AAP.

'The ferocity of this storm was that immense that we needed to put masks on within the shed as well.'

Ms Birch admitted she thought she was going to die, describing the situation as 'apocalyptic'.

Residents are warned to prepare to evacuate early and head to town centres and other safe places on Monday. Pictured: Firefighters in Taree

Outside, the volunteer firefighters who were barely able to see a few feet ahead of themselves watered down the shed and hoped it survived.

'The sound was like a freight train, we couldn't hear ourselves, we couldn't talk, we just reacted,' Ms Birch said.

'We weren't sure if anyone survived outside. My husband and Leigh's husband were outside.'

Jennette Styles said Victorian firefighters managed to save the community hall - 'the hub of our village' - but homes dating back to the early 20th century and their contents had been lost.

'Our heritage, our history is just disappearing,' she said.

'It's an amazing village because we have beautiful people here and we care about each other.

'We pull together, but we need someone to come out and talk to these people who have lost houses.There are people who aren't insured or don't own the property or who have lost $85,000 sheds.'

The volunteer firefighters continued fighting the blaze over the weekend, saving Geoff Hilton's home and shed just in time.

'How close do you want it to be?' he says, looking at scorched earth forming a ring around his shed.

Torrington RFS captain Greg Kneipp and his deputy, his dad Bob, have been battling the blaze since it began two weeks ago, with a few days rest in between.

They were thankful for the support of out-of-town and interstate crews, aerial water bombing and those carting water to the station to fill the trucks.

'This would be the worst fire and I'm 47 years in the RFS. This would be it by far and only because of the dry conditions is it so bad,' Bob Kneipp said.

He said the camaraderie of the fire crew was one of the reasons he stayed in the RFS but has noticed young people are less likely to sign up.

'We're a big happy family,' he said.

'Even when the strike teams come in ... within a couple of days, we know every one of them.'

NSW on Monday declared a state of emergency for seven days as bushfires continued to rage across the state. 

What does a state of emergency mean? 

A state of emergency allows emergency services personnel to:

Direct the public to evacuate an area or not enter an area

Order power and gas supplies to be shut off

Shore up or pull down buildings

Enter premises to facilitate the exercise of these powers.

A map issued by the Rural Fire Service warns of a catastrophic danger - the highest level - to the Greater Sydney and Greater Hunter regions.

'High temperatures, strong winds and low humidity are forecast, making conditions dangerous,' NSW Rural Fire Service warned on social media. 

'Catastrophic is the highest level of bush fire danger. Homes are not designed to withstand a fire under these conditions.

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

Residents are warned to prepare to evacuate early and head to town centres and other safe places on Monday and not wait until the last moment on Tuesday. 

PUBLIC SCHOOL CLOSURES FOR NOVEMBER 12
Afterlee Public School Girrakool School Mount Kembla Public School
Aldavilla Public School Glen William Public School Mount Kuring-Gai Public School
Alfords Point Public School Glenbrook Public School Mount Riverview Public School
Annangrove Public School Glenreagh Public School Mount Victoria Public School
Arcadia Vale Public School Glenvale School Mullaway Public School
Avoca Beach Public School Glossodia Public School Nabiac Public School
Awaba Public School Goolmangar Public School Nana Glen Public School
 Balgowlah North Public School Goonengerry Public School Narara Valley High School
Barkers Vale Public School Grays Point Public School Narranga Public School
Barnsley Public School Green Hill Public School New Lambton Heights Infants School
Baryulgil Public School Grose View Public School  Nimbin Central School
Bates Drive School  Gwandalan Public School Nords Wharf Public School
Beechwood Public School Hallidays Point Public School  North Gosford Learning Centre
Bellbrook Public School Hannam Vale Public School North Haven Public School
Bellingen High School Harrington Public School Nymboida Public School
Bellingen Public School Havenlee School Oakville Public School
Belltrees Public School Hazelbrook Public School Oatley West Public School
Ben Lomond Public School Heathcote East Public School Old Bar Public School
Berowra Public School Helensburgh Public School Orama Public School
Bilgola Plateau Public School Henry Fulton Public School Orara High School
Bilpin Public School Hernani Public School Orara Upper Public School
Biraban Public School Herons Creek Public School Otford Public School 
Black Hill Public School Hill Top Public School  Ourimbah Public School
Blackheath Public School Hillside Public School Oxley Island Public School
Blacksmiths Public School Holgate Public School Pacific Palms Public School
Blaxland East Public School Hopetown School Palm Avenue School
Blaxland High School Hornsby Heights Public School Peats Ridge Public School
Blaxland Public School Huntingdon Public School Pelaw Main Public School
Blue Haven Public School Huskisson Public School Penrith Valley Learning Centre
Boambee Public School Illawong Public School Penrose Public School
Bobin Public School Jannali Public School Pleasant Heights Public School
Bomaderry High School Jiggi Public School Point Clare Public School
Bonnells Bay Public School Jilliby Public School Pretty Beach Public School
Bonnet Bay Public School Johns River Public School Raleigh Public School
Bonville Public School Karangi Public School Repton Public School
Botany Bay Environmental Ed Centre Kariong Mountains High School Rollands Plains Upper Public School
Bowraville Central School Katoomba High School Royal National Park Environmental Ed Ctr
Brewongle Environmental Education Centre Katoomba North Ps Rukenvale Public School
Brisbania Public School Katoomba Public School Rumbalara Environmental Education Centre
Brooklyn Public School Kemps Creek Public School Samuel Gilbert Public School
Bundeena Public School Kempsey East Public School Sandy Beach Public School
Bungwahl Public School Kempsey High School Scarborough Public School
Callala Public School Kempsey South Public School Sir Eric Woodward Memorial School 
Camden Haven High School Kempsey West Public School  Somersby Public School
Camden Park Environmental Ed Centre Kendall Public School Springwood High School
Cardiff High School Kenthurst Public School Springwood Public School
Cascade Environmental Education Centre Kentlyn Public School St Helens Park Public School
Cattai Public School Kincumber High School St Ives North Public School
Caves Beach Public School Kincumber Public School Stanford Merthyr Infants School
Central Mangrove Public School Kitchener Public School Stanwell Park Public School
Cessnock East Public School Krambach Public School Sussex Inlet Public School
Chandler Public School Kulnura Public School Swansea High School
Chatham High School Ku-Ring-Gai High School Tanilba Bay Public School
Chatham Public School Kurmond Public School Taree High School
Chifley College Dunheved Kurrajong East Public School Taree Public School
Chifley College Senior Kurrajong North Public School Taree West Public School
Coffee Camp Public School Kurri Kurri High School Telegraph Point Public School
Collins Creek Public School Laguna Public School Terrey Hills Public School
Colo Heights Public School Lake Cathie Public School Thalgarrah Environmental Ed Centre
Colo High School Lake Munmorah High School Tharawal Public School
Colo Vale Public School   Lake Munmorah Public School The Beach School
Comboyne Public School Lansdowne Public School The Channon Public School
Comleroy Road Public School Lapstone Public School The Cook School
Como West Public School Larnook Public School The Risk Public School
Congewai Public School Laurieton Public School Tinonee Public School
Coolongolook Public School Lawson Public School Tomaree High School 
Coopernook Public School Leura Public School  Tomaree Public School
Cooranbong Public SchoolComboyne Public School Lindfield Learning Village Tomerong Public School
Comleroy Road Public School Lisarow High School Tuggerah Lakes Sec Coll Berkeley Vale
Como West Public School Lisarow Public School Tuggerah Lakes Sec College Tumbi Umbi
Congewai Public School Loftus Public School Tuggerah Public School
Coolongolook Public School Long Flat Public School Tuntable Creek Public School
Coopernook Public School Longneck Lagoon Environmental Ed Centre Turramurra High School
Cooranbong Public School  Larnook Public School Tyalla Public School
Copacabana Public School Laurieton Public School Ulong Public School
Copmanhurst Public School Lawson Public School Upper Coopers Creek Public School
Coramba Public School Leura Public School Upper Lansdowne Public School
Corindi Public School Lindfield Learning Village Urbenville Public School
Coutts Crossing Public School Lisarow High School Vincentia High School
Cowan Public School Lisarow Public School Vincentia Public School
Crescent Head Public School Loftus Public School Vineyard Public School
Crossmaglen Public School Long Flat Public School Wakefield School
Cundletown Public School Longneck Lagoon Environmental Ed Centre Wamberal Public School
Deepwater Public School Lowanna Public School Warrimoo Public School
Dora Creek Public School Lucas Heights Community School Waterfall Public School
Dorrigo High School Macdonald Valley Public School Wentworth Falls Public School
Dorrigo Public School Main Arm Upper Public School Whian Whian Public School
Dorroughby Environmental Education Centre Manly Vale Public School Whitebridge High School 
Dudley Public School Manning Gardens Public School  Wiangaree Public School
Dundurrabin Public School Maroota Public School Willawarrin Public School
Dunoon Public School Marsden Park Public School William Bayldon Public School
Ebor Public School Martins Creek Public School Wilsons Creek Public School
Elands Public School Marton Public School Windsor Park Public School
Ellerston Public SchoolEllison Public School Matthew Pearce Public School Wingham Brush Public School
Emmaville Central School Medlow Public School Wingham High School
Empire Bay Public School Megalong Public School Wingham Public School
Emu Heights Public School Melville High School Winmalee High School
Engadine West Public School Menai High School Winmalee Public School
Eungai Public School Menai Public School Wirreanda Public School
Falls Creek Public School   Merewether Heights Public School Wisemans Ferry Public School
Fassifern Public School Milbrodale Public School Woodenbong Central School
Faulconbridge Public School Mingoola Public School Wooglemai Environmental Education Centre
Fennell Bay Public School Mitchells Island Public School Woolgoolga High School
Fern Bay Public School Modanville Public School Woolgoolga Public School
Field Of Mars Environmental Ed Centre Moorland Public School Wooli Public School
Frederickton Public School Morisset Public School Woronora River Public School
Freemans Reach Public School Mount George Public School Wyong Creek Public School
Galston High School Mount Hutton Public School Wytaliba Public School
Gibberagong Environmental Ed Centre Mount Keira Public School Yarrawarrah Public School
Yarrowitch Public School
INDEPENDENT SCHOOL CLOSURES FOR NOVEMBER 12 
Manning Valley Anglican School, Cundletown Newington College Lindefield Campus, Lindfield
Tuntable Falls Community School, Nimbin  Yanginanook School, Belrose
Alesco Senior College Coast Campus, Tuncurry Lorien Novalis School, Dural
Port Macquarie Steiner School, Port Macquarie Ngaruki Gulgul (NG) Central School, Kariong
The Nature School, Port Macquarie Chrysalis Steiner School, Thora
Rainbow Ridge School for Steiner Education, Lillian Rock Mater Dei School, Narellan
Pete's Place South Blacktown, Blacktown Macksville Adventist School, Macksville
Taree Christian School, Taree Kindlehill School, Wentworth Falls
Nautilus School Port Macquarie, Port Macquarie Nambucca Valley Christian Community School, Nambucca Heads
Wycliffe Christian School, Warrimoo John Colet School, Belrose
Korowal School, Hazelbrook Manning Adventist School, Tinonee
Forrestville Montessori School, Forestville Northholm Grammar School, Fiddletown
Lindfield Montessssori, Lindfield Gaulston College, Ingleside
Alesco Senior College Raymond Terrace, Raymond Terrace Central Coast Sports College, Kariong
St Phillips Christian College DALE Young Parents Wyong, North Wyong Darkinjung Barker College, Yarramalong  
St Phillips Christian College DALE Young Parents Waratah, Waratah Medowie Christian School, Medowie
Cape Byron Rudolf Steiner, Byron Bay St Andrews Christian School, Clarenza
Mountains Christian College, Blackheath Columba Cottage Early Leaning Centre/OSCH, Port Macquarie
Warrah Special School, Dural Northern Beaches Christian School, Terrey Hills
Kinma Preschool & Primary, Terrey Hills Berowra Christian School, Berowra
St Columba Anglican School, Port Macquarie Glenaeon Rudolf Steiner School, Middle Cove
Hawkesbury Independent School, Kurrajong Armidale Waldorf School, Armidale
Atwea College Coast Campus, Tuncurry Kuyper Christian School, Kurrajong
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