UPDATED at 1:31 p.m. PST November 11, 2019
Based on the latest forecast, we have mapped where fires on the north coast are likely to spread during tomorrow’s dangerous weather. The red shows the predicted spread of fire. Check https://t.co/NXTTCbYtYQ for detailed information, advice and maps. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/gVstnWDrxC
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) November 11, 2019
5:47 p.m. PST November 10, 2019
New South Wales has been experiencing hot, dry weather for several days, resulting in numerous bushfires that have burned more than 100 homes. On Monday November 11 local time there were 65 active fires in NSW with about half of those being uncontained, while 10 have risen to the “Watch and Act” alert level.
“We are in uncharted territory,” said NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. “We have never seen this many fires concurrently at emergency warning level.”
Conditions are going to get even worse. The weather forecast for Tuesday, November 12 predicts fire danger that according to the NSW Rural Fire Service will be at the “catastrophic” level. Residents in some areas are being advised to evacuate before the extreme conditions hit even if there are no fires nearby.
Many of the currently active fires are across the north coast and northern NSW areas and will not be contained by the time the extreme fire weather strikes on Tuesday. Under these conditions, the fires will spread quickly, threatening homes and lives. The fire danger will be as bad, if not worse, than that experienced on Friday as it will be across a much broader area including large population centers like Sydney.
At a Monday press conference Premier Gladys Berejiklian said, “Stay away from bush lands tomorrow”. Due to the dangerous fire risk and extreme conditions she said she had declared a state of emergency. It is the first state of emergency in NSW since October, 2013, when major bushfires swept the state during similar weather conditions.
“Tomorrow we are facing horrendous conditions, life is at risk when it comes to catastrophic conditions,” said Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons at the press conference. “We cannot guarantee a fire truck at every home. We cannot guarantee an aircraft will be overhead when a fire is impacting on your property. We cannot guarantee that someone will knock on your door and give you a warning that there’s fires nearby. And we certainly cannot guarantee that despite our best efforts the technological tools available will deliver you a message in time.
“We know the fires on the north coast are not going to be contained ahead of [Tuesday’s] weather which means those fires are going to spread, they are going to spread quickly, and they are going to spread aggressively,” the Commissioner continued. “The risk is real to pretty much any community in or around the proximity of all those fires burning on the north areas of New South Wales particularly given the forecast of hot temperatures and dry winds dominating out of the west or northwesterly areas. You can pretty much guarantee anybody to the east or southeast as a predominant pattern will certainly be at risk from the fires on the north coast tomorrow.”