A body has been found in a burnt-out car and at least 100 homes have been destroyed as bushfires continue to blaze through towns in New South Wales and Queensland overnight.
Firefighters found the body in a car at the Kangawalla fire near Glen Innes, and two people are still unaccounted for.
Thirty people are injured, NSW Rural Fire Service said, while last night firefighters warned they were tackling ‘unprecedented’ blazes and were in ‘uncharted territory’ as they struggled to reach homes where people were trapped.
A terrifying audio recording, meanwhile, captured the moment five RFS volunteers were trapped by three fire fronts in the Taree region of the state’s mid-north coast.
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Multiple homes have been destroyed as more than a dozen bushfires rage across New South Wales (pictured bushfire near Taree on state’s mid-north coast)
Trucks gather at Taree Service Centre as smoke billows from a bushfire at Taree, 317km north of Sydney, on Friday
NSW Rural Fire Service personnel conduct property protection as a bushfire burns in Woodford
Embers from a tree are seen burning as the fires rage on throughout NSW’s coastal towns
‘We have been trapped by a falling tree, over,’ the firefighters could be heard saying over the service’s emergency radio before narrowly escaping the advancing flames by driving over the tree.
A total of 77 bushfires were still burning at 7am on Saturday, with 42 of them out of control.
The NSW Rural Fire Service issued said 12 ’emergency warnings’ were still in place for blazes from the Blue Mountains to the Queensland border.
In Queensland, firefighters have been stretched to the limit as hot and dry conditions along with strong winds turned towns to tinderboxes.
One resident in the small town of Bobin, near Taree, posted on social media that the local school was on fire and at least one resident was trapped.
The NSW Rural Fire Service issued said 12 ’emergency warnings’ (pictured in red) were still in place for blazes from the Blue Mountains to the Queensland border
The school has reportedly been destroyed in the inferno in Bobin as well as many as 20 houses.
Two homes have been lost in Coraki, south of Lismore.
The smoke from the fires was combining to create ‘fire clouds’ which can create lightning even in the absence of rain or storm activity.
‘These (fire clouds) are extremely dangerous. Do not be caught out in the open,’ the New South Wales RFS said.
NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says there are reports of ‘multiple community areas being impacted, loss, damage and destruction’.
Hot windy conditions have seen bushfires wreak havoc throughout the state (pictured fire in Woodford, NSW)
The fires have been burning through various NSW towns on Friday night with the blaze expected to last for hours to come
Bushfires are burning close to homes in Woodford (pictured) on Friday night with fires expected to continue into the night
Crews from the NSW RFS are conducting property protection as the blaze continues to burn through houses on Railway Parade in Woodford, NSW (pictured)
‘There are some preliminary reports of injuries that have still got to be validated and some minor injuries to some firefighters,’ the commissioner said in an online video.
‘We are going into a phase where the winds are going to be somewhat relentless into the evening.’
Fire crews have been forced to take shelter in nearby creeks as they continue to battle the raging fires.
Mr Fitzsimmons described the fires as both ‘volatile’ and ‘unprecedented’.
‘To have 17 fires concurrently burning at emergency warning alert level is without precedent here in NSW. We’ve never had this many fires burning at the same time,’ he said.
The commissioner urged people to stay where they were, as in many cases the access road to leave was more dangerous than their homes.
A firefighter is seen on the job as the RFS conduct property protection at Woodford, as bushfires ravage the state
A resident hoses smouldering logs at property in Woodford, where hot, windy conditions have wreaked havoc
There are currently 15 fires burning at emergency levels across NSW as firefighters work hard to control the blaze
A school in Bobin has reportedly been destroyed with as many as 20 houses as more than 1000 firefighters try to battle the blazes throughout NSW
‘You’ve got to understand a lot of the access roads in and around many of these fires are more dangerous than staying in a shelter or a safer place in your local community or your property,’ he told the ABC.
‘The principal message is about sheltering and sheltering in place – it’s simply too dangerous and too late to leave.’
There were 16 emergency warnings current after 6pm including at: Woodford in the Blue Mountains, Hillville, Long Flat, Crowdy Bay National Park, Shannon Vale, Tapin Tops National Park, Willi Willi, Tyringham, Cloudy Creek State Forest, Wandsworth, Carrai Creek, Stockyard Flat, Torrington and Bora Ridge.
RFS is urging those affected, or who have loved ones affected by the fires, to check the Register Find Reunite site.
They say the crews will continue to fight the fires late into the night.
Thousands of Queenslanders were forced to evacuate on Friday after the inferno came within just kilometres of Brisbane’s city centre, and a multitude of fires broke out from the Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast.
Residents of Scenic Rim, about 90 minutes south-west of Brisbane, have two dangerous bushfires burning on either side of them, with winds expected to increase throughout a hot, dry night.
One of them is a blaze at Tarome, a rural hamlet some 80km southwest of Brisbane, that is expected to affect the little community by early evening.
The other blaze is at Clumber and Moogerah, where a prepare to leave order has been issued.
Residents watch on as a bushfire burns in Woodford, New South Wales, on Friday
Firefighters and trucks are seen during conduct property protection, as fires ravage New South Wales
‘Today has been a difficult and dangerous day. The bush fire threat is expected to continue for many hours,’ RFS wrote on Facebook.
‘Homes, buildings and facilities have been destroyed today. The exact number won’t be known for some time, as Building Impact Assessment Teams inspect the widespread area that has been affected.
‘Numerous people have called for help today – and due to the magnitude and speed of the fires, we haven’t been able to get to everyone, even by road or helicopter.’
A firefighter from the RFS runs down the road during bushfires in NSW. A firetruck is seen in the background
Residents watch on as an Aircrane water bombing helicopter flies by their property in Harrington
The sun is seen through heavy smoke as a bushfire burns in Woodford on Friday afternoon
Shocking photos showed the flames perilously close to homes near Taree and the streets of Grafton clouded in a thick red haze.
A mayor on the state’s mid-north coast said the bushfires ripping through the region were ‘horrifying and horrendous beasts’.
Mid-Coast Council mayor David West says he’s anguished as residents brace themselves in the face of volatile fire conditions near Taree.
‘From my personal perspective, it’s horrifying,’ he told AAP on Friday afternoon.
‘I’ve never felt a sense of anguish that I do now, the fear for my community.’
A water tanker airplane drops fire retardant on a bushfire in Harrington on Friday
More than 90 fires were burning on Friday evening, with the NSW Rural Fire Service issuing 16 ’emergency warnings’ for blazes from the Blue Mountains to the Queensland border
Mr West said a fire near Forster threatened a council building on Thursday night.
‘It was literally a wall of yellow, horrible, beastly, tormenting flames,’ the mayor said.
‘It was a horrendous beast.’
The mayor – who lives in Brimbin – is particularly concerned about an out-of-control fire burning near Hillville south of Taree.
The NSW Rural Fire Service says that fire has crossed the Pacific Highway and is spreading quickly.
Smoke from the fires raging across the New South Wales mid-north coast and up towards the Queensland border could be seen from space
A shocking photo showed the streets of Grafton clouded in a thick red haze as more than a dozen fires rage across the state
The highway is closed in both directions between Taree and Bulahdelah. The Pacific Highway is also closed at Port Macquarie between the Oxley Highway and Hastings River Drive.
‘It (the Hillville fire) moving toward the coast at a fairly rapid rate,’ Mr West said.
‘The area that I live in hasn’t been burned in about 30 years. There’s a huge amount of fuel load.’
A number of schools have been closed in the area due to the bushfires.
MidCoast Council deputy mayor Claire Pontin – who lives in nearby Hallidays Point – says the area is ‘tinder dry’.
‘It’s just crispy. In places, you can hear the leaves crunching under your feet.’
An Aircrane water bombing helicopter drops water on a bushfires in Harrington, 335km north east of Sydney, on Friday
A mayor on the state’s mid-north coast said the bushfires ripping through the region were ‘horrifying and horrendous beasts’ (pictured aerial video of a bushfire at Harrington near Port Macquarie)
Earlier on Friday, Mr Fitzsimmons said two homes had been damaged or destroyed in the fire burning at Stockyard Flat near Walcha with assessors yet to reach the site.
‘It is a volatile day and it will remain a volatile day,’ Mr Fitzsimmons told reporters in Sydney.
‘We need vigilance and we need people to be decisive and ready to act in accordance with any direction given by authorities.’
Mr Fitzsimmons said the bushfire danger across the state was ‘at the upper end of the scale’, with five total fire bans in place for the New England, far north coast, north coast, Greater Hunter and Northern Slopes regions.
Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Paul Baxter said at-risk residents needed to be ready to act.
‘Once a fire gets to an emergency alert level we may not be able to get to help you,’ Mr Baxter told reporters.
‘We haven’t got the resources to be able to put into every single area so you must be prepared to survive yourself.’
A still image from an aerial video showed bushfires engulfing the highway north of Tuncurry, near the town of Forster
The escalated fire risk comes after a man, aged in his 50s, suffered serious burns to his legs and hands while trying to defend his rural property in Yarrowitch, east of Walcha, on Thursday.
Dust is expected to be blown across much of the state’s northeast on Friday with the Central Coast and Newcastle areas the worst affected.
The fire danger should lessen over the weekend, although threat levels were forecast to rise again on Tuesday or Wednesday next week, Mr Fitzsimmons said.
Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Rose Barr says there should be a brief reprieve in fire weather conditions as temperatures cool over the weekend.
‘(But) from Monday conditions will warm up again and temperatures will heat up significantly,’ she told AAP.
Rising temperatures are forecast to bring elevated fire dangers across much of NSW by Tuesday.
Out of control flames were snapped from a nearby residential area in Harrington
Dust is expected to be blown across much of the state’s northeast on Friday with the Central Coast and Newcastle areas the worst affected (fire at Harrington pictured)