High temperatures and hot, gusty winds blew into the Illawarra on Thursday, sparking bushfires and leaving some residents suffering heat exhaustion.
Despite predictions of record-breaking heat, Wollongong fell just short of the 38.8 degrees recorded on October 13, 2004.
Paramedics treated three people for heat exhaustion across the region when temperatures peaked between 2pm and 3pm, with Albion Park and Bellambi topping the readings at 2.15pm and 2.17pm with 36.3 degrees.
Those treated included a 20-year-old Nowra man, a 90-year-old Mollymook woman and an 80-year-old Thirroul woman.
At least 12 other people were treated for heat-related illness across the state.
A fire on Blackbutt Road, south of Nowra, broke out about 9am.
At its peak, the blaze measured 150 metres by 50 metres.
No houses were threatened, and one aircraft was used to support ground firefighting crews.
An RFS spokesman said the fire was under control by 10am.
Two fixed-wing aircraft stationed at Illawarra Regional Airport at Albion Park were used to fight a 40-hectare bushfire burning out of control at Oberon.
Rural Fire Service Illawarra zone manager Richard Coterill said aircraft had been made ready throughout the Sydney basin in preparation for the high temperatures.
‘‘The aircraft will move around depending on the greatest risk,’’ he said.
The two Air Tractor AT-802s were each able to hold a maximum of 2800 litres of fire retardant, water, foam or gel.
A strong southerly buster was expected to provide some relief from the high temperatures late last night.
Bureau of Meteorology NSW weather services manager Andrew Treloar said a strong cold front had drawn in hot, dry air from the north-west, pushing the mercury up throughout the day.
‘‘It’s the air ahead of the cold front that brings all that hot air down,’’ he said.
‘‘We [were] in the head part...that’s what’s dragging down those hot north-westerly winds.’’
Conditions today are predicted to be mild, with a maximum of 23 expected, accompanied by a possible morning shower.
The total fire ban in place yesterday was expected to be cancelled.