As the state stares down the barrel of a worse than average bushfire season, a senior University of Wollongong scientist has warned the effects of global warming are already sparking more frequent, more intense blazes.
Yesterday, the Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre released its official seasonal outlook for southern Australia, which predicted NSW would experience above average fire conditions, with the exception of the North Coast and Far West.
In the Illawarra, a warmer than average winter coupled with below average rainfall during the last two months brought a "marginal increase" in fire danger.
UOW biological sciences senior research fellow Dr Owen Price has been working on a number of studies into bushfires causes.
He said while the effects of global warming were already having an impact, residents were unlikely to see radical differences from one season to another.
"Our research at the moment suggests there's not going to be a dramatic change, there won't suddenly be double the amount of fire, but it will increase," Dr Price said.
This meant events similar to Victoria's Black Saturday fires, which claimed 173 lives in February 2009, could begin occurring in NSW, he said.
"Predictions say we might get more rain ... [but] because it's also warmer and more evaporation is likely to occur, probably the amount of moisture in the ground is going to decrease," he said.
"And if it's dryer and warmer then there is going to be more fire."
Dr Price said research also indicated 40 per cent of bushfires began within two kilometres of urban development, and were generally classed as either arson or accidental.
Meantime, NSW Rural Fire Service Illawarra Zone manager Superintendent Richard Cotterill said properties in the region's north faced a greater fire risk.
"The further north we go in the Illawarra ... the higher the hazard simply due to homes being in close proximity to bushland," he said.
"As we move further south the risk is marginally lower ... through Shellharbour and Kiama, then it escalates again around Shoalhaven."