Smoky, hot New Year’s Eve with tough fire conditions expected

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Heatwave conditions will affect most of the state across the next couple of days, with New Year’s Eve expected to be the hottest day of the week and smoky conditions returning to Sydney.

“At this stage, we’re looking at temperatures rapidly increasing on Tuesday. Parts of western Sydney will reach the mid-40s, and Sydney near the coast will reach the mid-30s,” Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Abrar Shabren said.

Firefighters conducting backburning at Hill Top, near Bowral.

Firefighters conducting backburning at Hill Top, near Bowral.Credit:James Brickwood

“In the rest of the state, temperatures will be quite high. Gradually, we’ll see on the coastal fringe relief on New Year’s Eve, probably by the late evening.”

A southerly wind change will bring cool air late on New Year’s Eve and into the first morning of 2020.

“We will see gusty conditions on Tuesday, and it will be generally dry and hot, which will elevate fire danger,” Mr Shabren said.

A total fire ban has been declared for 10 of the state’s 21 fire areas on Monday, including the Sydney area. On Sunday, fire crews worked hard around New South Wales as relatively favourable conditions saw no fires go above the “advice” level of danger throughout the day.

“The work today has been crews building containment lines and gearing up for worsening conditions tomorrow, and especially on Tuesday,” Rural Fire Service spokesman Greg Allan said.

“A lot of work has been done on the Gospers Mountain fire and the Green Wattle Creek fire, but local crews everywhere have been doing what they can. We’ve had thousands of firefighters on the frontlines and support roles over the Christmas period.”

Hill Top residents Ghislaine and Dino Stephanidis have lived with the smoke and the rumbling of helicopters and planes for the last two weeks.

The couple have lived in the bushy area 21 kilometres north of Bowral for 21 years and said they requested a backburn a year ago but were told it was unnecessary.

On Sunday, Mr Stephanidis was watering his wife’s roses while backburning operations unfolded across the road.

"What do people do in these instances?" Dino Stephanidis waters his wife's roses.

“What do people do in these instances?” Dino Stephanidis waters his wife’s roses. Credit:James Brickwood

“I don’t know, what do people do in these instances?” he said when questioned why he was watering the roses.

The couple are prepared to evacuate, with a caravan parked outside their home.

Mrs Stephanidis said, “It’s been very stressful and we can’t breathe, it’s been really really bad.”

But with the backburn now complete, the couple feel safer ahead of deteriorating conditions.

On Sunday, more than 1600 firefighters and 700 support staff were hard at work, and Mr Allan said there was “no doubt” those numbers would increase on Monday and Tuesday.

He warned against people travelling, especially through bushland areas.

“We’ve seen major roads like the Hume and Princes highways close over the past weeks,” Mr Allan said. “If you can delay your travel, especially over the coming days with worsening conditions, that’s certainly advised.”

Sydney resident Tony Whittingham is on his annual holiday in Lake Conjola but says the fires almost convinced him to cancel.

“The place smells of smoke and gets in the back of your throat,” he said. “We haven’t unpacked yet, we’re still living out of a suitcase.

“No one is down here,” he said. “The place is probably 60 per cent capacity because the bushfires are keeping everyone away.”

Mr Whittingham is deciding whether he’ll cut his trip short and said he’ll have to make a decision soon as fires may force roads to close.