Firefighters Set for Cooler Christmas in Australia’s NSW

December 24, 2019 Updated: December 24, 2019

Firefighters across NSW, Australia are set for a moderate Christmas, with cooler conditions to keep fire danger to a minimum.

Rain is forecast for coastal NSW north of Newcastle on Wednesday, while Sydney will have a 50 per cent chance of rain and a maximum of 26C. Easterly winds will also shift lingering haze over the city.

Most of coastal NSW is under “low-moderate” fire risk, while only one region—the northwestern region—is deemed at “very high” risk.

There are no total fire bans in place. The NSW government’s state of emergency, granting special powers to Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, will expire on Wednesday night.

NSW Rural Fire Service observers during back burnning operations near Picton, Australia
New South Wales Rural Fire Service observers during back burning operations near Picton, Australia Dec. 22, 2019. (Reuters/Jill Gralow)

Almost 75 bush and grass fires were nevertheless burning on Tuesday night, including the Gospers Mountain mega-blaze northwest of Sydney, the Green Wattle Creek fire southwest of the city and the south coast’s Currowan fire. Some 28 fires were yet to be contained.

More than 2000 firefighters will spend this week making crucial preparations before conditions deteriorate again across NSW, likely this weekend.

However, the RFS isn’t expecting a repeat of the danger levels seen a few days ago, Fitzsimmons told reporters on Tuesday.

“We’re really trying to consolidate as much as we can, secure protection as best we can ahead of what’s expected to be hotter, drier and, this time, a bit more northerly in the winds,” Fitzsimmons said.

At least 873 NSW homes have been destroyed this fire season, with teams still assessing properties believed lost in recent days.

Another 353 homes in NSW have been damaged.

A further 100 homes are also believed to have been lost since Thursday, but they’re still being assessed due to limited RFS access.

The federal government, meanwhile, has announced Commonwealth public service volunteers will get at least four weeks paid leave to fight bushfires under a plan to get more “boots on the ground”.

Morrison also said that a longer Australian fire season and overlapping periods of major fire danger for states may require policy change, but added that “social media is not going to set government policy.”