One little spark was all it took to ignite a fire in the Illawarra Escarpment west of Dapto that's still burning six days later.
It's only two weeks into spring and fires are already raging, with temperatures in the Illawarra predicted to soar into the early 30s this week.
Worryingly for firefighters, the hot weather will be accompanied by strong winds early next week.
Firefighters are racing to prepare for the worst fire season since Black Summer, and at the time of going to print, there were four fires burning in the region.
The biggest is a 27 hectare bushfire west of Dapto, that was accidentally ignited by a spark during railway works on Saturday.
Firefighters were also at grass fires in Tahmoor and Colo Vale, and a bushfire in Sanctuary Point.
By late Wednesday afternoon, firefighters were battling 84 separate blazes across NSW.
In the Illawarra, planned pile burns have quickly gotten out of control, with fires tearing through long grass growth.
The Black Summer fires of 2019-20 burnt through 5.5 million hectares of NSW and left 26 people dead, but the Illawarra and Royal National Park were largely untouched.
These areas are at risk due to the lack recent fire activity, NSW Rural Fire Service Inspector Ben Shepherd said.
"It is an area that we have obviously been concerned about going into this fire season," he said.
There's been three very wet years since Black Summer, and it's led to excess growth in bush and grasslands across the Illawarra and Royal National Park.
The growth, coupled with a lack of hazard reductions due to ongoing rain, means communities are at risk.
"We are expecting fires to really make a return to NSW this year," Insp Shepherd said.
While comparisons to Black Summer are being made, he said the situations aren't the same.
"We're not out of the back of four years of drought, so the forest vegetation is not under stress," Insp Shepherd said.
"But, what we have had is three incredibly wet years, so as we start to see that the landscape dry out there is going to be more fires prone."
Mr Shepherd said it only takes a short period of hot, dry windy weather for the risk to increase in the Illawarra.
Albion Park Rural Fire Brigade is among 500 stations across NSW to throw open their doors for Get Ready Weekend on September 16 and 17.
Firefighter Alex Bruce is urging people to come along to find out how they can protect themselves, their family and their homes ahead of bushfire danger period which starts on October 1.
You don't need to be living beside the bush to be at risk from fires, Mr Bruce warned, with embers able to travel kilometers ahead of the main fire front.
He urged people to clear leaves out of gutters, and mow lawns around their home or house paddock to reduce the risk of fire.
"If you are on a rural property [keep] your grass nice and short, that reduces the severity of any fires that come through if it's well maintained.
Mr Bruce said families should plan what they'll do before a fire approaches - will they leave and if so, where will they go.
Many RFS stations in the Illawarra are taking part in Get Ready Weekend, click here for details.
Stay up-to-date on fires in your area by downloading the Hazards Near Me app.
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