Authorities have upgraded tomorrow’s fire danger rating to catastrophic in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven.
Of the 21 NSW fire areas only the Southern Ranges - covering Palerang, Goulburn Mulwaree, Queanbeyan, Upper Lachlan and Yass Valley - is regarded as equally at risk.
The catastrophic status takes into account the extreme heat and strong north and north-westerly winds likely to be experienced across both areas.
Several other parts of NSW are considered at extreme or severe risk, while a total fire ban is in place state-wide.
Carers, bosses and property-holders are being urged to make early preparations for the near-record temperatures forecast for parts of the state tomorrow.
The mercury is forecast to climb to 45 degrees in some towns in the state’s north-west while in Sydney and Wollongong the forecast is for 43 degrees.
It was New Year’s day, 2006, when the weather station at Bellambi last recorded such extreme heat. Then, it was two degrees hotter at Albion Park.
The heat poses health risks to vulnerable groups including the elderly, babies, pregnant women, the overweight, people on certain medications and outdoor labourers.
WorkCover NSW is encouraging employers to reschedule work to earlier or later than usual to keep workers out of the most extreme heat tomorrow.
‘‘If possible, you should try to re-schedule work to cooler times of the day,’’ the agency’s general manager of workplace health and safety, John Watson, said in a statement earlier today.
‘‘If this is not possible, ensure that workers have access to plain drinking water, shaded rest areas and regular rest breaks.’’
NSW Health advises vulnerable people including over-75s, the obese and overweight, the immobile, the socially isolated and breastfeeding and pregnant woman, to stay out of the sun.
Some medications can hinder a person’s ability to sweat, compromising the body’s ability to cool itself.
An animal or child left in an enclosed car would be exposed to temperatures up to 30-40 degrees higher than the outside air - potentially more than 80 degrees tomorrow if forecasts prove correct.
Fire authorities are bracing for a potentially catastrophic day.
Illawarra Zone Rural Fire Service Superintendent Richard Cotterill said today - not tomorrow - was the time for property owners to prepare their homes and make a plan about whether to stay or go if fire eventuates.
‘‘Don’t leave it to the last minute because that’s the most dangerous time to leave and that results in loss of life time and time again in major fire activity,’’ he said.
‘‘Even if people are staying and defending, there might be an opportunity to take some of their more valuable things out of their house and leave then with friends so there is one less thing to worry about in the heat of the moment.
‘‘Take pets and leave them with someone and even think about your kids - maybe it would be safer to have them staying away at grandma’s or a friend’s place because staying and fighting a fire can be pretty traumatic for kids.’’
For those who would stay and defend their homes, Mr Cotterill urged people to ‘‘do their housekeeping’’, by cleaning up any flammable materials like leaf build-up, dry grass and making sure there were no vents or holes where embers could get in.