The bushfire season has officially arrived and authorities are fearing the worst for the months ahead.
Although this weekend marks the start of the danger period, the Illawarra has already been given a taste of what is to come.
Jeff Walsh of Quarrie Photography captured a startling image (pictured) of a bushfire that tore through 650 hectares of bushland between Bulli Tops and Darkes Forest last month.
Intense winds helped fan the flames, with crews working for more than 24 hours to contain the blaze.
Emergency Services Minister Michael Gallacher yesterday warned this season could be the worst in years.
"The last few summers have been relatively calm in terms of fire activity, mainly because of the extensive rain experienced across large parts of the state," he said. "However, that rain has brought with it fire danger conditions not seen in NSW for some time. As the extensive growth generated by the rain dries out, there's a very real potential of serious fires."
Illawarra Zone Rural Fire Service Superintendent Richard Cotterill said the region's early start to the season indicated there was plenty of dry fuel around and it was ready to burn.
He urged Illawarra residents to visit the RFS website for information on creating a bushfire survival plan.
"When the fire is imminent it's too late then to be making certain decisions, they need to sit down and consider what they're going to do and what they're going to take before it happens," Mr Cotterill said.
From Monday, anyone wishing to light a fire, other than a barbecue or cooking fire, will need to get a permit. For more information visit www.rfs.nsw.gov.au.
Visit www.quarriephotography.com.au to see more photos.