12 Feb 2017

NSW burning in 'catastrophic' heatwave conditions

9:02 pm on 12 February 2017

Firefighters in New South Wales have issued emergency warnings over five bushfires that are burning out of control, as the state faces what emergency services are calling catastrophic conditions.

Eastern Australia was bracing for severe "off the scale" fire conditions on February 12 as it baked in a heatwave that has broken temperature records and sparked dire warnings from authorities.

This screen-grab from video footage taken from a NSW Rural Fire Service aircraft shows a bushfire near Leadville. Photo: New South Wales Rural Fire Service / AFP

Soaring temperatures and high winds are driving the blazes.

A large fire is threatening the town of Cassilis, inland from Newcastle, and has already burned some properties.

Residents of the town were told to take shelter as it was too late to leave.

More than 1000 rural firefighters are battling 85 blazes across the state, with 35 of those not yet contained.

New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said while homes and other buildings had been destroyed, there were no reports of any lives lost.

The extreme fire conditions were expected to start from about 11am Sunday (1pm NZ time).

Earlier today there were 18 uncontained fires burning across the state.

Worst fire conditions in NSW ever

Mr Fitzsimmons earlier warned conditions in some parts of the state might be worse than those that preceded the Black Saturday fires.

"The conditions for Sunday are the worst possible conditions, they are catastrophic - we haven't seen this in NSW to this extent ever," Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

"It's not another summer's day. It's not another bad fire day. This is as bad as it gets."

"If you are caught out in the open under these sorts of conditions - you are likely to die - it's as simple as that."

Despite the risk, many of the fires were started by people and police were on the look-out for arsonists throughout the state.

A boy, 13, was charged with arson over a grass fire at Orange in central western NSW yesterday.

Keeping safe during heatwave

The NSW ambulance service advised people, particularly the elderly, to stay out of the heat.

"These people need to be in cool areas - whether that be air conditioning or whether that not be possible then certainly in a well-ventilated place," Mr Morgan said.

"Fluid intake is critically important for all people, not just our older community or our vulnerable community."

Mr Morgan said 20 children or animals had been rescued from overheated locked cars over the past two days.