Firefighters to assess property loss as NSW bushfire threat downgraded

Farmers battle a fire near Cassilis. Photo: Nick Moir
Farmers battle a fire near Cassilis. Photo: Nick Moir

The immediate threat to property from bushfires raging in central western NSW has been downgraded following cooler and calmer conditions overnight, but firefighters have warned the danger period is not yet over.

Dozens of properties are believed to have been damaged, but it is not yet known how many were destroyed, when almost 100 fires burned across NSW on the weekend in what the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) classified as "catastrophic conditions".

Building Impact Assessment Teams will inspect fire-ravaged areas on Monday to determine the extent of loss or damage to property and livestock.

Livestock was relocated from a property near Coolah, as smoke from the Sir Ivan fire east of Dunedoo loomed. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Livestock was relocated from a property near Coolah, as smoke from the Sir Ivan fire east of Dunedoo loomed. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

At least one farmer, Warren Jarvis, reported that his house was "totally gone" when a fire raced over the hill near his property near Cassilis and went "mad".

"My house and all my property is totally gone. Three greyhounds, other cats, all my chooks, probably my sheep and cattle," he said.

Just before 6am on Monday, the two biggest fires - the Sir Ivan Fire, to the east of Dunedoo, and at Kains Flat, south of Kempsey - were both at Watch and Act level. That is one level below an emergency warning, and means there is still a heightened level of threat and conditions are changing.

The RFS said the Sir Ivan Fire was not contained and was moving north towards Leadville and Coolah. It had already burned 41,650 hectares of land by early on Monday morning, the RFS said.

"The fire is currently burning to the east of Dunedoo moving in a northerly direction towards Black Stump Way, Leadville and Coolah," a RFS spokesman said.

Farmers battle a lightning strike fire which was started by the mammoth blaze west of Cassilis. Photo: Nick Moir

Farmers battle a lightning strike fire which was started by the mammoth blaze west of Cassilis. Photo: Nick Moir

"Although conditions are easing, people in the area should remain vigilant and prepared to implement their bushfire survival plan.

"People in the areas of Leadville, Turill, Cassilis and Coolah should remain vigilant and prepared to implement their bush fire survival plan.

"Follow the directions of firefighters in the area. Telecommunications may be disrupted in the area due to power outages."

Farmers battle a fire that started with a lightning strike near a larger blaze west of Cassilis. Photo: Nick Moir

Farmers battle a fire that started with a lightning strike near a larger blaze west of Cassilis. Photo: Nick Moir

The Kains Flat fire, north-east of Mudgee, was out of control and moving in an easterly direction just before 6am on Monday.

"Conditions in the area have eased throughout the evening diminishing the level of fire activity," the RFS spokesman said.

"Firefighters are actively defending properties under threat.

"If it is your plan to leave, or if you are not prepared to stay, people in the area around Wollar and Cumbo, including Mogo Road and Araluen Lane, should leave now towards Bylong.

"People in the area around Wollar and Cumbo should remain vigilant and prepared to implement their bushfire survival plan."

Six other major fires - near Kempsey, near Taree, to the west of Wauchope, north of Gloucester, north of Ballina and south of Boggabri - had all been downgraded to "advice" level by Monday morning, meaning there was no immediate danger to properties or residents.

NSW RFS crew members from Cumberland Strike Team take a well earned rest after a long day of fighting a large grass fire burning towards the small township of Wollar in the greater Hunter region. Photo: Wolter Peeters

NSW RFS crew members from Cumberland Strike Team take a well earned rest after a long day of fighting a large grass fire burning towards the small township of Wollar in the greater Hunter region. Photo: Wolter Peeters

On Monday morning, about 90 fires were still burning across the state.

The fire danger will remain very high on Monday in the Greater Hunter and surrounding fire areas, Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Neil Fraser said. But he said no part of the state would face severe, extreme or catastrophic conditions.

The southerly change that swept through NSW on Sunday afternoon cooled conditions considerably.

Sydney's Observatory Hill had its coolest night since mid-December, dropping to a low of 18.3 degrees at 5.30am on Monday.