Illawarra sizzles with more heat on the way

The heat is still on for the Illawarra, with more hot weather predicted for the region, bringing the risk of further bushfires.

Temperatures in the region climbed quickly on Tuesday, doubling between 5am and lunchtime and reaching the forecast 43 degrees.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Albion Park recorded the highest temperature, hitting 43.1 degrees at 1.44pm.

Kiama (42 degrees), Nowra (42.4) and Bellambi (40.1) also broke 40 degrees.

Winds were strong for most of the day, with gusts over 60km/h recorded in several areas.

Bureau meteorologist Jane Golding said the state was in between the La Nina and El Nino weather patterns, meaning more hot weather could be expected in coming months.

"These are the years where we're more likely to get hot and dry weather along the coast," Ms Golding said.

"This isn't unexpected. It's still unusual but not unexpected that we get more hot weather before the end of this summer.

"Maybe not quite as hot [as yesterday] but certainly around the mid-30s."

To emphasise this, Ms Golding said the region could expect cooler temperatures today and tomorrow before the heat returned on Friday.

"So a couple of days of reprieve and then more warmer days over the weekend," she said.

Despite the predicted cooler weather, a statewide total fire ban remains in force.

The fire danger rating is expected to drop from "catastrophic" to "high".

Illawarra Zone Rural Fire Service Superintendent Richard Cotterill said the fire risk had certainly not passed.

"Due to the windy conditions, high temperatures and low humidity [yesterday], bushfire fuel is going to be very, very dry for quite some time to come - until we get some good rain," he said.

"The fuel literally has been baked today, it's been dried right out.

"The fuel is going to be excessively dry for quite some time after a day like this."

Speaking at 6pm on Tuesday, Mr Cotterill said there were only a few "minor incidents" in the Illawarra requiring attention from fire crews.

Fire crews were ordered to stand by at the Garrawarra nursing home and the Stanwell Tops Conference Centre in case fire broke out.

Police charged a Wongawilli man with disobeying yesterday’s total fire ban after he was allegedly found cooking food for his dog on an outdoor pot-belly stove.

The man was issued with a notice to attend Wollongong Local Court on February 21.

Further south, the townships of Sussex Inlet and Bendalong were under threat from a bushfire  yesterday afternoon.

The fire was in the Deans Gap area, 1.5 kilometres west of Wandandian.

It had been burning since Monday but firefighters had managed to contain the fire by that night.

However, yesterday afternoon it jumped containment lines and began heading east, burning out at least 1000 hectares of bushland by 6.30pm. The bushfire forced the closure of several roads, including the Princes Highway, which was shut  in both directions at Wandandian, between Wandean and Bendalong roads.

Shortly before 4pm yesterday, the RFS issued an emergency warning for the Sussex Inlet and Bendalong area with concerns that burning embers could fly ahead and start spot fires.

The RFS warning said the fire was ‘‘between two and six hours from properties’’.

‘‘Under these conditions,’’ the warning said, ‘‘fires are uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast moving.’’

Some residents and holidaymakers evacuated the area and headed for Ulladulla.

RFS public liaison officer Inspector Brett Loughlin said any residents on the western side of the highway who had not evacuated by 4.30pm would no longer be able to.

‘‘They need to hunker down and be prepared,’’ he said.

‘‘No property is under imminent threat at this time.’’

 Major fires were also burning at Brogo, near Bega, and Yarrabin, east of Cooma.

There were more fires at  Kareela Road, west of Bundanoon

Extreme temperatures at the Illawarra Regional Airport at Albion Park. Picture: DAVE TEASE

Extreme temperatures at the Illawarra Regional Airport at Albion Park. Picture: DAVE TEASE


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