Saturday, 9am: The morning after
Lawrence Hargrave Drive has reopened and power has been restored to 37 homes after a fire that destroyed three houses, a boat and a car on Friday night.
Fire investigators were examining the site on Saturday morning to determine the cause of the blaze, which is believed to have started in the roof cavity of one of the homes.
Bellambi weather station recorded wind gusts of 70km/h during the fire fight.
Update 12am: A number of fire crews will remain at the site of the Paterson Road blaze overnight to mop up and monitor the situation.
“We'll be continuing mopping up for several more hours,” Duty Commander for the Illawarra Jay Bland said.
“I’m going to put five crews up here; there'll be two crews in attendance and we'll be monitoring throughout the night.”
Inspector Bland praised the quick action of attending crews in stopping the fire - which destroyed three homes, a boat and a car - from spreading further.
"The first arriving crews were faced with a really difficult situation,” he said.
“We had one house fully involved in fire and we had prevailing winds that were in excess of 50km/h that were causing the fire to spread to adjoining properties.”
Crews were also faced with exploding gas cylinders and live power mains that had to be isolated by Endeavour Energy, he said.
“When crews first attended our main priority was the safety of residents and we quickly ascertained that all persons in the properties had been accounted for.
“With the initial reports coming through we escalated our response, so we moved from four stations to 20 stations at this incident.
"I've got to say that the multi-agency response to this job has been fantastic and the collaboration between the two agencies - Fire and Rescue and Rural Fire Service - essentially prevented this fire from spreading any further.
"I can't praise the fire fighters' actions highly enough. What they did tonight, they prevented this fire from spreading to other properties and they should be commended for that.”
Investigations into the cause and origin of the fire will continue into the morning.
11pm: NSW Police have released the following statement:
Three houses have been destroyed by fire in Coalcliff.
Emergency services were called to Lawrence Hargrave Drive at Coalcliff shortly before 7.30pm, responding to reports a house had caught fire with strong winds spreading it to two neighbouring properties.
Three other homes nearby were evacuated as a precaution but fire fighters from Fire & Rescue NSW were able to contain the blaze to the first three buildings.
Sixteen people were evacuated from the destroyed homes; they are staying with family and friends.
No injuries have been reported to police.
Families evacuated from adjoining houses have been allowed home.
The cause is still being investigated.
Lawrence Hargrave Drive will be closed while mopping-up operations continue. Check www.livetraffic.com for latest information.
8.45pm: Three homes destroyed in fire
Three homes have been destroyed and a third partially damaged after a massive residential blaze on Lawrence Hargrave Drive at Coalcliff on Friday night.
NSW Fire and Rescue and the RFS are mopping up after the multi-agency effort involving 20 fire trucks.
All residents are accounted for and no injuries have been reported.
As of 8.45pm, several spot fires were still burning as strong winds continued to fan the flames.
Lawrence Hargrave Drive remains closed between Lady Wakehurst Drive and Clifton School Parade, while trains are not yet stopping at Coalcliff station.
About 36 homes on Lawrence Hargrave Drive and one on Paterson Road are still without power as a result of the blaze, according to Endeavour Energy.
The fire is believed to have started in the roof cavity of a home located near the rest stop opposite Coalcliff station.
NSW FIre and Rescue spokesperson Adam Dewberry said the flames then spread to two neighbouring properties.
“Two homes were severely damaged and a third was damaged,” he said.
“It took about an hour-and-a-half to contain (the blaze).”
Twenty trucks were involved in a relay effort to pump water to the remote location.
“With a short supply of water more than 20 fire trucks are on scene,” Austinmer Rural Fire Service posted about 9.30pm.
“NSW RFS Illawarra District has sent its bulk water carrier to assist.”
A train passenger passing the scene reported seeing “a mile of emergency vehicles”.
Earlier: Multiple homes on fire
Lawrence Hargrave Drive is closed in both directions as about 20 fire trucks respond to multiple house fires in Coalcliff.
The Mercury understands at least four homes and a boat are well alight.
Endeavour Energy is reporting that power has been cut to 38 homes as Fire and Rescue NSW works to contain the blaze.
Fire crews from all surrounding stations as well as a hazardous materials response team have been called in to assist and are currently assembling at Paterson Road.
A police officer near the scene said he’d never seen a double digit number of fire trucks respond to a residential fire before, indicating the seriousness of the blaze.
Motorists are advised to exercise caution and avoid the area as a high volume of emergency vehicles are on scene.
Trains are not stopping at Coalciff station due to the close proximity to the fire. Passengers should listen to announcements.
The northern suburbs have been cloaked in smoke.
More to come