A volunteer firefighter has died and two others have been injured while working on a fire burning near Albury, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) has confirmed.
The RFS said the three firefighters were in the same truck working on a blaze near Jingellic, near the Victorian border, when it rolled over after being hit by extreme winds.
One firefighter was killed and two others suffered burns and were taken to hospital.
A second vehicle working on the same fire was also blown over and the firefighter on board was taken to hospital, the RFS said in a statement.
“The service’s thoughts are with all the firefighters’ families, friends and fellow brigade members,” the statement said.
#NSWRFS confirms that a volunteer firefighter has died this evening near Jingellic. A further 2 firefighters have suffered burns.
The firefighters were working on the Green Valley Fire, about 70km east of #Albury. It’s believed that the truck rolled when hit by extreme winds.
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 30, 2019
It followed another day of bushfire danger, with strong winds and soaring temperatures fanning flames towards major population centres.
Two fires are burning at emergency level, including the Green Valley, Talmalmo fire in the Greater Hume area, and the Werri Berri fire in the Bega Valley.
The RFS tweeted that a fire-generated thunderstorm had formed over the Badja Forrest Road and Turross Falls Road fires, which were burning north-east of Cooma at watch and act and advice levels, respectively.
A fire-generated thunderstorm has formed over the Badja Forest Road and Tuross Falls Road fires, north-west of Cobargo. This is a very dangerous situation. Monitor the conditions around you and take appropriate action. #nswfires #nswrfs pic.twitter.com/bJAGGP1LMg
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 30, 2019
Total fire bans were declared in 10 areas on Monday, including the Illawarra, Hunter and Greater Sydney, but conditions tomorrow are expected to be even worse.
The temperature at Penrith, in Sydney’s west, has been forecast to reach 40C on Monday and 44C on Tuesday.
Regional areas are also expected to swelter on Monday, with Wagga Wagga (42C), Hay (44C), and Wentworth (45C), among the hot spots.
The RFS is particularly concerned about the massive “mega-blazes” at Gospers Mountain and Green Wattle Creek, which have encircled Sydney.
The Bureau of Meteorology said a front moving through south-eastern Australia is behind the difficult conditions.
There is a risk of dry lightning, as well as strong, gusty winds as a mass of hot air settles over the state.
“That hot air is coming out of the centre of Australia, it’s particularly dry and then unfortunately conditions are expected to worsen in New South Wales as we head into Tuesday,” RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.
“The winds are expected to strengthen up on average to 50-60km/h and potentially gusting 70-80km/h.”
Yesterday, the RFS continued large backburning operations around Sydney and warned residents in several areas to be prepared as conditions deteriorated.
Tom Grant and his wife Rachel built their home near Hill Top, about 115km south-west of Sydney’s CBD and 75km from Wollongong, two months ago.
They’re not taking any chances and evacuated at the weekend after crews warned the Green Wattle Creek blaze was expected to reach the town this week.
“We have a three-week-old baby and a one-year-old so our priority was to get them out,” Grant said.
Almost 900 homes have been razed, and 3.48 million hectares of land has been burnt in NSW so far this fire season.
In Victoria, the fire danger in several regions was rated “extreme” on Monday.
The entire area of East Gippsland – a popular holiday destination – was yesterday urged to evacuate and the Falls Festival at Lorne was cancelled.