As heat temperature records tumbled today, catastrophic fireweather conditions are forecast for Sunday from Port Stephens in the Hunter Region to the Central West region. This may move north.
RFS Fire Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons warned about conditions on Sunday:
"The conditions for Sunday are the worst possible conditions when it comes to fire ratings. They are catastrophic, they are labelled catastrophic for a reason, they are rare, they are infrequent, and to put it simply they are off the old conventional scale. We used to stop our fire danger ratings at 100, but we are talking about indices up over 150, 160 tomorrow which is quite extraordinary. We haven't seen this in NSW to this extent, ever.
The last time we saw catastrophic fire danger ratings was back in January 2013 in a geographic area limited to the southern ranges and the Illawarra/Shoalhaven. This is a magnitude of some 3, 4, 5 times larger geographically than we experienced back in January 2013. It's not another summer's day, another bad fireweather day, this is as bad as it gets in these circumstances.
This is simply not a safe environment which is why we are making it very clear to people that the only safe place to be is not in those risk areas particularly in these extreme and catastrophic regions of NSW tomorrow. We simply cannot guarantee that a fire truck will be at every home or property under these conditions. We cannot guarantee that aircraft will knock down these fires and let firefighters gain the upper hand. We cannot guarantee that a warning, a telephone message, a knock at the door will occurr for everyone that comes under threat tomorrow.
Fires will start easily and spread extremely quickly. Often the fire will be consuming property before anyone is able to detect it, make a 000 call, let alone have firefighters or aircraft arriving on scene trying to make a difference."
Catastrophic conditions for Sunday have been declared for the Hunter region from Port Stephens to the Central West and may move northward.
NSW Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant introduced the press conference and said, "If you don't need to be in dangerous areas, bushfire prone areas, then please don't be there."
Steven Elliott from Bureau of Meteorology outlined the climate conditions that lead up to the current situation:
* high winter rainfall which lead to high growth of fire fuel
* over last couple of months preponderance of high pressure system over the continent which prevented the passage of cold fronts, rain that would cool the interior
* build up of hot and dry air in middle continent with a mid level ridge that is preventing passage of a cold front from the south. As the Front approaches it will cause the north west winds to accelerate and draw in that hot dry air from the middle of the continent over NSW
* very unusual circumstances
* to have extreme to catastrophic fire ratings is also unusual
* The last time we saw similar conditions was in 2013 and that was in severe fire danger. This is two categories above that.
Heat Records broken:
* stretch of 10 days > 35C in Sydney, previous record was 9 days
* 2 days above 40C in Canberra an equaling record in 1968 and 2009
* NSW highest minimum temperature record broken at Whitecliffs with 34.2C. Past record 33.3C at Tibbooburra in 1915
* Further records likely to be broken in coming days
Steven Elliot said expect more heatwaves after this one, the heat in the interior will still be there and won't have been flushed out. If similar conditions occur expect more NSW heatwaves.
Dominic Morgan from NSW ambulance service highlighted that in the last 24 hours there have been a number of near drownings, and 20 children or animals rescued from cars. Increased activity of ambulance service, but currently responding well. Take care of elderly and ensure they are in a cool or well ventilated place. Keep up the hydration.
"Clinically diagnosed heat stroke is a potentially life threatening condition. It can be characterised by severe dehydration, delirium, persistently high temperatures, unconsciousness and even fitting." Check on your neighbours, check on your friends, check on your family.