UPDATE: Illawarra's catastrophic fire risk downgraded

7.30am UPDATE: The Rural Fire Service has downgraded the fire danger risk for the Illawarra and Shoalhaven from catastrophic to high overnight as the southerly change brought relief from the extreme conditions.

The southerly swept through the Shoalhaven around 10pm last night, with the temperature dropping from 35.5 degrees at 9pm in Nowra to 24 degrees at 10.20pm. 

In Kiama, the mercury fell to 24.3 degrees around 11pm after a high of  41.5 degrees at 1.30pm. 

The temperature is 19.2 degrees in Albion Park.

The Princes Highway remains closed at Wandandian, south of Nowra, as a bushfire continues to burn out of control in the area. 

A total fire ban remains in place for the Illawarra and Shoalhaven. 

11pm UPDATE: The Bureau of Meteorology has cancelled a wild wind warning for the Illawarra.

At 2.30pm, the bureau issued a warning for people in the Illawarra, Southern Tablelands, South West Slopes, Snowy Mountains and Australian Capital Territory forecast districts.

Winds have eased over the southern ranges and adjacent districts, but the bureau advised that the situation would continue to be monitored and further warnings issued if necessary.

10pm UPDATE: It's still 36 degrees but it's begun to rain in the southern suburbs of the Illawarra.

9pm UPDATE: Power has reportedly been restored to homes in Wollongong and North Wollongong.

The temperature is 36.6 degrees at Albion Park and 34.0 degrees at Bellambi.

The southerly change, which has hit Point Perpendicular and is heading towards Nowra, is causing temperatures to drop in the 20s.

8.30pm UPDATE: Homes in Wollongong and North Wollongong are without power after a blackout hit the suburbs tonight.

The power went out for more than 1500 Endeavour Energy customers shortly after 8pm.

Endeavour Energy said it is investigating the cause, which could be related to today’s high temperatures.

The company’s website says that power will be restored by midnight.

8pm UPDATE: The southerly wind change will bring large amounts of smoke from southern fires, which may impact the Illawarra.

6.30pm UPDATE: The region’s catastrophic fire rating will be lowered to high on Wednesday.

Illawarra Zone Rural Fire Service (RFS) Superintendent Richard Cotterill said that forecast lower temperatures would ease the risk to the Illawarra.

The maximum temperature in the region is expected to be 23 degrees.

It peaked at 43.1 today.

Meantime, trains are again operating between Kiama and Bomaderry after a tree was removed from the line.

Paramedics have treated four patients for heat exposure.

6pm UPDATE: A statewide total fire ban has been declared for Wednesday.

A total fire ban remains in place for the rest of today.

Meantime, Wollongong City Council has confirmed that some main beaches will be patrolled until 7pm due to the heat. Not all beaches will be open late.

5.30pm UPDATE: Trains have been suspended on the South Coast line between Bomaderry and Kiama.

Emergency crews are moving a tree that is leaning close to the track at Bomaderry. Bus companies have been contacted to operate a replacement service. 

Passengers are advised to allow extra travel time and listen to station announcements.

Meantime, most of the state's national parks will be reopened to visitors this evening.

However, the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service advises people to select their destinations carefully and come well prepared for the hot weather ahead.

NPWS Director of Conservation Operations, Bob Conroy, said that although bushfire conditions have eased in much of the state, people should think seriously before entering parks.

4.45pm UPDATE: Temperatures remain high across the region, with Bellambi peaking at 40.1.

Bellambi recorded its highest temperature of the day at 4.22pm.

The highest temperature so far today has been 43.1, recorded at Albion Park at 1.44pm.

There is a severe wind warning in place for the region.

3:40pm UPDATE: The RFS has issued an emergency warning for areas of the South Coast, including Bendalong and Sussex Inlet.

The Deans Gap fire is burning in catastrophic fire danger conditions and is currently between two and six hours from properties.

Under these conditions, fires are uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast moving. Embers may be blown great distances from the fire.

The fire has closed the Braidwood-Nowra Road. The fire may impact the Princes Highway.

3.15pm UPDATE: Temperatures have hit 43.1 at Albion Park and 42 at Kiama.

Albion Park recorded 43.1 at 1.44pm and Kiama 42 at 1.37pm.

Meantime, there is a fire out of control at Kareela Rd, Penrose, in the Wingecarribee area.

3pm UPDATE: A fire at Deans Gap in the Shoalhaven has breached contained lines.

The fire has closed the roadway between Braidwood and Nowra.

The fire has been burning in a remote area. 

Crews overnight managed to contain the fire, however with the hot and windy conditions this afternoon, the fire has breached contained lines. 

There is no immediate threat to properties.

Firefighters and aircraft are concentrating on the northern edge of the fire, ahead of the forecast southerly change.

Turpentine, Wandean and Twelve Mile Roads at Wandandian are also closed due to a nearby fire.

The Princes Highway remains open but visibility may be affected by smoke.

2pm UPDATE: Temperatures have hit 41.7 at Kiama at 1.32pm and 38.5 at Bellambi at 1.16pm.

MORE: Two regions added to catastrophic list

1.30pm UPDATE: The temperature has climbed to 40.9 degrees at Albion Park.

The temperature was recorded by the weather bureau at 1.05pm.

1pm UPDATE: The temperature has hit 41.5 degrees in Austinmer, where the humidity is sitting at 13 per cent.

A Rural Fire Service crew monitoring the area took the readings just before 1pm today.

The mercury has now hit 39.4 degrees at Albion Park Airport, with humidity of 16 per cent.

Conditions are only slightly more comfortable in Bellambi where the temperature is now 35.6, while the humidity is 24 per cent.

NOON UPDATE: An out of control fire is now burning on the Warrigal Range Road at Brogo in the Bega Valley.

The fire is expected to impact on homes east of Warrigal Range Road or west of Eagles Nest Road by about 12.45pm.

People in the area can leave now if the path is clear and relocate to Bega township.

A bushfire is also burning out of control near Mount Forest Road, Carlaminda, near Cooma.

The fire is burning in a south easterly direction and has crossed over the Numeralla River. 

It is travelling towards the Kybean Valley.

People in the Kybean Valley area should seek shelter if the fire impacts. 

Leave only if it is safe to do so.

WHERE TO GO: RFS neighbourhood safer places

MORE: Get out now, commissioner urges most at risk

MORE: Illawarra on alert over 'catastrophic' fire risk

MORE: Catastrophic fire risk: what it means

MORE: Where the fires are burning in the rest of the state

11am UPDATE: Albion Park has now hit 37 degrees, with a relative humidity of 19 per cent.

The temperature has more than doubled since 4am when the mercury dropped to an overnight low of 17.5 degrees. 

At Bellambi the temperature has now exceeded 33 degrees.

A north-westerly wind is blowing across the region at 41 kph, pulling in hot, dry air.

The NSW Ambulance Service is urging people to stay hydrated and not underestimate the heat.

“Make no mistake, everyone in the community should understand heat can kill - sunburn, dehydration and heat exposure can lead to heat stroke," Acting Chief Superintendent Ian Johns said.

10am UPDATE: Emergency service crews have gathered at the Illawarra Rural Fire Service headquarters in Albion Park Rail.

They are monitoring weather conditions from the command centre and are poised to react the moment a fire breaks out.

Illawarra zone RFS Superintendent Richard Cotterill said representatives from numerous agencies, including police, the State Emergency Service (SES), Marine Rescue and the Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA), were on standby at the base.

‘‘All the agencies are here at the command centre so we’ve established very robust communication between all the services,’’ he said.

RFS crews and police are also working to prevent fires from breaking out.

‘‘We’re working with police to do additional patrols in certain areas to make sure people aren’t doing the wrong thing,’’ he said.

‘‘National parks are closed and we’ll be patrolling those areas.’’

Mr Cotterill said RFS community engagement teams would be roaming across the region throughout the day to provide information and advice to residents.

Representatives from Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama councils, the Sydney Catchment Authority, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, the NSW Department of Agriculture and Department of Community Services are also in attendance at the command centre.

9am UPDATE: A fire at Deans Gap, 12km west of Wandandian, has now burnt out six hectares of bushland.

More than 25 Rural Fire Service volunteers worked through the night to black out and strengthen containment lines ahead of today's catastrophic fire risk conditions.

Although no roads are closed, the RFS are urging residents to avoid the area.

Should the fire escape containment lines, a rapid spread towards the east would occur. 

Residents living or holidaying in the Wandandian, Sussex Inlet, Swanhaven, Cudmirrah and Berrara areas should move to a built up area such as Nowra or Ulladulla town centre for the day.

8am UPDATE: The temperature has hit 32 degrees at Albion Park, with relative humidity of 27 per cent.

In Bellambi the temperature is now 30 degrees, with relative humidity of 33 per cent.

More than 80 fires are now burning across NSW.

There are no reports of any active fires burning in the Illawarra.

There are no disruptions to train services on the South Coast Line.

The Illawarra is on high alert after the Rural Fire Service gave the region a 'catastrophic' fire risk rating.

It is the highest possible risk rating.

Last night residents across the region were sent text and voicemail messages warning of the potential danger.

The temperature reached 29 degrees just after 6am in Albion Park with Bellambi hitting 24 degrees.

A total fire ban is now in effect.

A north-westerly wind is now blowing across the region.

The Southern Gateway tourist centre, Mount Keira and Sublime Point lookouts, the Illawarra Fly and Minnamurra Rainforest are all shut as a precaution due to the heat and potential bushfires.

Illawarra Zone Rural Fire Service (RFS) Superintendent Richard Cotterill said the combination of dry weather, extreme heat and strong north and north-westerly winds would create "one of the worst fire danger days that we've seen in the Illawarra for a long, long time".

Visit The Mercury website for more updates throughout the day.

WHO TO CONTACT

Call 000 in an emergency to contact police, fire, rescue and ambulance services.

 For updates and advice contact the Rural Fire Service 1800679737, visit rfs.nsw.gov.au or follow @rfsnsw on Twitter

 For road closures visit .livetraffic.rta.nsw.gov.au or call 131500

 For wildlife rescue or injured wildlife contact WIRES on 1300094737

 For lost animals contact the Illawarra RSPCA shelter on 42713410

 If you see any suspicious activity involving the lighting of fires contact Crime Stoppers on 1800333000

Have you chosen to evacuate? 

Tell us your story by emailing scoop@illawarramercury.com.au

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