Moderate winds and a lack of rain are expected to play havoc with dozens of unseasonable out-of-control bushfires burning throughout NSW.
Very high fire danger is predicted on Thursday for the New England, Northern Slopes and Far North Coast regions while more than 80 fires were burning overnight all along the Great Dividing Range.
Several watch-and-act messages were issued for fires in the Blue Mountains, Richmond Valley, Clarence Valley, Bega Valley, Mount Kingiman and North Nowra on Wednesday.
Homes were evacuated near Milton with residents such as retired potter Susan Curran and her mother taking shelter with friends in town.
“I could look out my friend’s back door and before it got dark I could see the glow of the fire behind the trees,” she told AAP shortly after arriving back home on Wednesday evening.
Firefighters stopped the Mount Kingiman blaze from reaching her 19th-century home or five towering bunya pines but allowed a neighbouring paintball park to go up in flames.
“You could hear all the gas cylinders in there exploding,” she said.
The Bureau of Meteorology was forecasting damaging winds for the state’s southeast on Thursday, including for a possible blizzard above 1900m.
Winds of about 35km/h were predicted but there is little rain in sight.
RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers is worried about how bad the fire season will be if the rain never comes.
“Considering the entire state is drought declared, the fuel is so dry, it doesn’t take heat,” he told the ABC.
“All this is about is low humidity, dry fuel and strong winds.
“Unless we get substantial rainfall, we are really concerned for the summer.”
Ms Curran said the ground near Milton is “dry as, it’s crunchy underfoot”.
She said while gusty winds are normal in winter, she can’t remember the last time bush or grass fires affected her.
“Usually winter conditions are just rainy and it just blows roofs off,” she said.
“Winter fires? It’s radical.”