FIREFIGHTERS are focusing on emergency situations in nine areas of NSW, Victoria and Tasmania as hot, dry and windy conditions envelop southeastern Australia.
With 140 fires burning across NSW, the worst-hit area was in the state’s south where temperatures hit the low 40s and winds of up to 90km/h swept through the southern ranges.
At Tarcutta, near Wagga Wagga, 18 tankers and two helicopters were battling a bushfire that had broken northern containment lines and closed the Hume Highway.
The fire is understood to have damaged hay and machinery sheds, and locals had taken refuge at the Tarcutta RSL and Citizens Club.
Eva Toth, who owns the Tarcutta Halfway Motor Inn, has been running between her car and office, packing items including her computer and insurance paperwork.
“It’s absolutely a burning scorcher,” she told AAP.
“It’s like someone put the hair dryer on your face.”
Across the state more than 1200 firefighters backed by about 350 trucks and 63 aircraft were tackling the fires.
By Tuesday afternoon more than 54,000 hectares had burned, with no homes or lives lost.
Other areas of concern included Sand Hills near Bungendore, Range Road in the Upper Lachlan area, Deans Gap in the Shoalhaven area near Nowra, the Bega Valley, Yarrabin east of Cooma, and Bogan Gate near Parkes in the state’s central west.
A cool change was making its way across the state, but similarly hot and windy conditions were expected later in the week.
Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said there was still much work to do.
“Right across the state we are seeing fires breaching some of their containment lines, and we’ve also got fire agencies identifying new fires that are starting up under these hot, dry conditions,” Mr Fitzsimmons told reporters.
“We’ve got a lot of daylight left and a lot of night time left under these conditions.
“The front that’s moving through NSW is not expected to pass through some of our worst areas until much later tonight.”
Meanwhile, in Tasmania – which has endured almost a week of intense and damaging fires – police had yet to find any bodies in 550 homes searched in the state’s south.
A second round of more comprehensive searches is expected to begin in the next two days with a contingent of Victorian police arriving to look for around 100 people still unaccounted for.
At 5pm on Tuesday there were no emergency-alert areas in Tasmania, but 43 fires were being managed, the most worrying being around Forcett and Lake Repulse in the south, and Holwell, Montumana and Mathinna in the north.
In Victoria, one emergency warning was in place on Tuesday afternoon in the Chepstowe area, where a 50ha grassfire was moving fast in a northeasterly direction.
Ten other fires were being managed around the state.
A grassfire burnt the fences of several Sunbury homes in Melbourne’s northwest.
In the ACT, authorities were concerned about lightning strikes on Tuesday evening as a storm developed.
Chief officer of the ACT Rural Fire Service Andrew Stark said the weather predictions for Saturday of temperatures in the high 30s, strong winds and a late southerly change could mean further risk.
“(That’s) almost a carbon copy of today’s conditions, which will be challenging for us but will be particularly challenging for all the fires in surrounding areas,” he told reporters in Canberra. – AAP