NSW Premier Chris Minns has warned of a “horror summer” with the state “behind” on its scheduled hazard reduction burns ahead of a potentially brutal fire season.
As of 1pm, the Rural Fire Service (RFS) reported 65 fires burning across NSW, with 19 not yet contained. It also said forecasted winds were expected to worsen into the afternoon.
An “extreme” fire danger warning is also in place for the Greater Hunter and Greater Sydney Region, with a “catastrophic” warning – the worst of the four-level fire alerts – issued for the Far South Coast on Tuesday afternoon.
A total fire ban is also in place for Sydney, the Hunter and Upper Central West Plains.
A day of hot, dry and windy weather forecast for Wednesday has also lead to the Bureau of Meteorology to issue an Extreme Fire Danger warning for the Greater Hunter and the Greater Sydney Region until a southerly change on Wednesday night will lower temperatures.
With the BOM formally declaring an El Nino for this summer, Mr Minns said a four-day streak of above 30C temperatures had increased concerns of a “horror summer”.
He said NSW was also “behind” in its hazard reduction burns over the last 12 months, due to a lack of optimal weather conditions over the winter.
“I think the public would understand that you need perfect conditions when you’re going to undertake a hazard reduction,” he said.
“The wind has to be low, it can’t be too hot, because ironically enough, despite everyone’s best intentions, they’re inherently dangerous.”
While hazard reduction burns are slated to continue, Mr Minns urged the community to ensure their fire plans were up to date, and best prepare their homes.
“It’s really important that you can consult with the RFS in your community, particularly if you’re in a regional area,” he said.
“We’ve got wonderful personnel out on the fire ground with dedicated volunteers that are committed to this work, but we need your help as well to get through the summer period.”
As of 1pm, there are 65 fires burning around the state, with 19 not yet contained. Over 700 firefighters and incident management team members are currently working to contain these fires. The forecast winds are expected to worsen into the afternoon. https://t.co/SwFG8PzKTApic.twitter.com/A9IZifooui
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) September 20, 2023
Mental Health Minister Rose Jackson also people to contact their GP, Beyond Blue, Lifeline or the NSW Mental Health Line if they are feeling distressed or anxious about the potential of a bushfire crisis, or an increase in weather events.
“I’ve already had conversations with the mental health branch of NSW Health about the fact that as we see more warm weather, as we see more bushfire alerts, as we see an El Nino declared, people may be feeling some distress or anxiety based on past experiences,” she said.
“Please know the NSW government has resources available for you.”
If you’re not feeling okay or you’re worried about someone around you, go and see your GP; call Beyond Blue, call lifeline, call the New South Wales mental health phone line.
“There is support available for you.”