Sydney bushfire still out of control but conditions ease for firefighters


Residents in Sydney's south-west are breathing a sigh of relief after a severe bushfire that has burnt more than 2,400 hectares eased overnight.

New South Wales fire crews spent a second long night taking advantage of cooler conditions to back burn and protect homes in the Holsworthy area.

The fire continues to burn in an easterly direction towards Barden Ridge, but the threat has been reduced.

Residents in Sandy Point, Pleasure Point, Voyager Point, Alfords Point, Barden Ridge, Illawong, Menai and Bangor are still advised to keep a close eye on the situation and activate their bushfire survival plans if conditions change.

Late yesterday, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) said the fire had burnt about 2,430 hectares around Holsworthy and Menai, and some properties had been damaged.

The bushfire was downgraded to "watch and act" yesterday evening, replacing the emergency warning put in place, and this morning was further downgraded to "advice" level.

RFS spokesman Greg Allan said powerful wind gusts on Sunday created challenging conditions for firefighters, but the forecast for today was a definite improvement.

"The good news is that the wind conditions will be easing, so we should see winds that are about half the speeds of what we had. There were reported gusts of about 60 kilometres an hour so they'll be reduced," he said yesterday.

"Temperatures could be a little higher [today] but we'll also have increased humidity, so that plus the slower speed of the winds will certainly assist firefighters bringing this fire under control."

'If it's not their house, it's my house': Neighbours defend homes from fire

Residents stayed to protect their homes

Many residents in Menai decided to remain at their homes and were kept busy fighting ember attacks.

Some remembered terrible bushfires in the 1990s when homes were destroyed, and were determined to stay and extinguish embers or spot fires as they broke out.

Local MP Craig Kelly said because most of the communities in the area were quite bushy and remote, residents understood the risk of bushfires.

"We had some very big fires here in 1994, we lost something like 20 homes," he said.

"Most of those houses that burnt down were not from the fire front, it was from a spot fire or from a burning ember catching on fire on somebody's roof.

"So I'm sure everyone's been out checking their roof, making sure everything's wetted down and keep an eye on those spot fires."

Plumes of smoke over suburban Sydney homes

The grass fire began in Casula on Saturday afternoon and quickly spread through Moorebank, Wattle Grove, Holsworthy, Menai and Heathcote.

On Sunday, more than 500 firefighters in almost 100 fire trucks, along with 15 aircraft, battled the blaze throughout the day.

Over the weekend the blaze was declared an emergency a number of times but was downgraded to watch and act when winds dropped down to around 15 to 25 kilometres per hour.

Wind speeds are expected to be similar today.

Aerial water tanker season could be reviewed

Aerial views show bushfire burning in south-west Sydney

NSW RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said two giant aircraft, the DC10 Nancybird and the C130 Hercules "Thor" — normally used for aerial water bombing — were not available to help fight the Sydney fire.

He said the aircraft had unfortunately already been returned to the United States because they were always sent back by the end of March when temperatures were traditionally cooler.

"It's very unseasonal — the fire conditions we've been seeing — and obviously if that becomes the norm then we have to review the period of time that we have them," he said.

"We're certainly looking to maximise the amount of time we have them here."

The RFS said there was very little rain forecast over the next few days across the fire ground and most parts of the state.

Police have established a strike force to investigate the cause of the fire, which they are treating as suspicious.

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