Smoke settled in over Wollongong on Monday afternoon after a number of hazard reduction burns in preparation for the bushfire season.
Prolonged dry weather, unseasonably-high temperatures and strong winds have forced the region’s NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) crews to begin preventative work earlier than normal.
RFS volunteers carried out a number of hazard reductions in recent weeks, with the latest burn at Helensburgh on Sunday.
There were also hazard reduction burns in the Blue Mountains and Hills district over the weekend which contributed to the smoke haze.
Light winds spread the smoke haze over parts of Sutherland Shire and St George on Monday morning, before it blanketed the Illawarra later in the day.
Air quality hit dangerous levels in parts of Sydney as a blanket of smoke settled across the city.
The NSW Rural Fire Service said the smoke would clear throughout the day and evening although it warned the smoke may settle in some areas, leading to health alerts for people with lung conditions and asthma.
Read more: UOW expert’s bushfire warning for NSW
NSW Health warns that people with heart and lung conditions, children and older people are more susceptible to the impact of smoke particles in the air.
It advises people with lung conditions or asthma to cut down outdoor activities and seek medical advice if their symptoms worsen.
The statutory bushfire danger period begins on October 1, but could be brought forward in some areas if conditions don’t improve.
RFS Illawarra district manager Superintendent Greg Wardle said homeowners should consider beginning their fire preparations now.
Superintendent Wardle said conditions were a lot drier than usual for this time of year.
The region had its driest July on record and below average rain fell in June.
“We’ve reviewed our plans, our procedures [and] the brigades are out there doing their preparation now,” he said.
“We’re obviously starting to do our hazard reduction burning earlier than we normally would; because it’s so dry that’s given us the opportunity to do that.
“For us across the district, we’re just a little bit more heightened in our awareness of the potential at this time of the year.”
The warning came as Thursday marked five years since residents battled to protect their homes from a bushfire at Darkes Forest.
Strong winds fanned the large fire, which started on the afternoon of August 10, 2012. The blaze threatened six properties on Darkes Forest Road as it tore through 650 hectares of bushland.
Engadine Rural Fire Brigade attended this fire which started out near Darkes Forest and before long became a major battle to contain, had houses come under ember attack and took days to extinguish.
“This fire burnt in cold conditions and all be it in strong winds however the bush was dry enough to sustain such a large scale fire,” Engadine Rural Fire Brigade says on its Facebook page.
“With unprecedented warm weather starting up over the next week there is no time like the present to get started on your bushfire season preparations.”
Temperatures are expected to climb as high as 23 degrees in parts of Sydney this week.
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