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Sydney has had a taste of the hot, dry summer ahead with near-record September temperatures, extreme bushfire conditions and blazes burning out of control on the city’s fringe.
Hot, dry west-northwesterly winds battered Sydney throughout Wednesday, reaching gusts of up to 67kmh at Fort Denison, as temperatures soared to 33.9 degrees at Observatory Hill, just short of the September record of 34.6 degrees set in 1965.
The highest recorded temperature in the city was 35.7 degrees at the airport just before 3pm.
The Rural Fire Service said as of 8pm there were 68 blazes across NSW, with just under 30 uncontained.
In Sydney, an out-of-control grass fire burning near homes at Wedderburn, south of Campbelltown, triggered a “watch and act” alert just before 5pm.
At Wallacia, on the western outskirts of the city, firefighters and a helicopter spent much of the day bringing a fire under control after it burned through 12 hectares and came within 50 metres of houses.
A helicopter drops water on the Wallacia fire in Sydney’s south-west on Tuesday.Credit: Wolter Peeters
Wallacia resident Steve Dunbar said he wet down his lawn and was prepared to fight the fire as it burned close to houses on his 22-acre property, which backs on to bushland.
“I was in the 2001 fire, in the property across the road, and we lost the house over there … there was no hope. We saw it coming and all we could do was hide to keep away from it. Because I have seen it, and I’ve seen what it can do, I was prepared this time.
“We have two trucks full of water here all the time, and tanks around the houses with pumps. It’s going to happen one day. There’s plenty of fuel.”
Dunbar, who lives on the property with his parents, his wife and his three children, was at work in Erskine Park on Tuesday when he got a call from a friend in the RFS, who told him to get home because a fire had crossed on to his land.
Firefighters tackle a bushfire at Wallacia on Wednesday.Credit: Kate Geraghty
“It’s jumped the creek and come in here and it’s been threatening us ever since,” he said. “It was out the back yesterday but it was all around the houses today.”
He said a helicopter and firefighters on the ground had managed to keep the flames at bay.
RFS spokesman Greg Allan said NSW was facing its most dangerous fire season since 2019-2020, when the Black Summer bushfires burned through 5.5 million hectares, destroyed 2476 homes and claimed 26 lives.
“This is the most dangerous, in terms of risk of fire, since that season,” Allan said. “But our crews are prepared to protect properties.”
He said the extreme fire danger in Sydney on Wednesday was a reminder to households to prepare properties and design a bushfire survival plan.
A total fire ban in Sydney, the Greater Hunter and Upper Central Western districts will be lifted at midnight, but the north-west of the state will face high fire danger and a total fire ban on Thursday, affecting the Moree Plains, Narrabri, Walgett and Warrumbungle local government areas.
In Sydney, the fire danger will fall to moderate as a southerly change moves through about midnight, dropping temperatures to a maximum of 23 degrees on Thursday.
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