The NSW Rural Fire Service’s newest firefighting weapons were called in to help tackle an out-of-control fire that ripped through bush at Maddens Plains on Friday afternoon.
Emergency services were alerted to the bushfire just before 5pm, when flames were seen east of the M1 Princes Motorway, north of Bulli Tops.
The fire threw peak-hour traffic into chaos, with the motorway and the Princes Highway between Helensburgh and Bulli Tops closed.
Southbound traffic was diverted onto Lawrence Hargrave Drive near Helensburgh, causing bumper-to-bumper traffic to crawl its way down the coastal route.
Five aircraft were initially called in to help bring the blaze under control, however more resources had to be brought in as a forecast strong southerly change made its way up the coast.
The change arrived just before 7pm. At the time, RFS Inspector Ben Shepherd told the Mercury crews were keeping a close eye on the fire's movement.
"It's likely to escalate now in that northerly direction,” Inspector Shepard said.
Enter the most-recent additions to the RFS strike force.
The DC 10, a massive water bombing tanker capable of dumping up to 44,000 litres of water or fire retardant at a time, unleashed its power via a number of runs over the fire ground.
The aircraft, nicknamed "Southern Belle", was assisted by a Hercules C130 tanker called Thor. Both aircraft are on loan from the US to assist ground crews during what’s been tipped to be a difficult fire season.
An Erickson Air Crane and helicopters could also be seen dropping water on the fire near the M1 Motorway.
Late Friday night, no homes were under threat
By 8.30pm, the fire continued to burn between the M1 and the Princes Highway, Inspector Shepherd said.
Heavy smoke and embers were still affecting the motorway. Both roads remained closed.
Fire crews were expected to work late into the night to contain the fire and start back-burning operations when conditions allowed.
The fire ignited on a day of very-high fire danger across the Illawarra/Shoalhaven and Greater Sydney regions, a day that had earlier seen temperatures peak in the mid-30s in the Illawarra.
Emergency services also responded to a grass fire in Morrison Avenue, Wombarra on Friday afternoon.