Bureau warns of possibility of more extreme conditions
BRUTAL conditions experienced by residents across NSW on Tuesday may have only been a preview of record-breaking temperatures and fire-fuelling winds still to come, the weather bureau has warned.
Across Australia the average temperature was 40.3 degrees on Tuesday, more than 0.16 degrees hotter than the national average record set during the 1972 summer heatwave.
Temperatures in some regional areas peaked at more than 54 degrees and Bureau of Meteorology website has forecast similar conditions on the weekend could bring the national average over the 50 degree mark.
In NSW, dire weather warnings were realised as at least seven fires burned out of control and more than 120 were being contained.
More than 60,000ha was burnt out and 1126 firefighters backed by 340 trucks and 63 aircraft worked around the clock.
A "catastrophic" fire warning had been issued by Premier Barry O'Farrell on Monday night for two regions but by Tuesday morning three more areas were experiencing the worst possible fire conditions.
A wildfire near the inland city of Wagga Wagga forced the closure of the Hume Highway at Tarcutta. Several rural properties were evacuated but on Monday night no homes had been lost.
On the state's south coast, residents at Warrigal Range were urged to leave their homes immediately and seek shelter at Bega before all rural roads were cut about 4pm.
Drivers taking the Princes Hwy to escape fires near Nowra were urged to exercise "extreme caution", travelling with a charged phone and carrying water at all times.
While authorities believe most fires have been sparked by the extreme heat, one bushfire in Sydney's west is being treated as suspicious and three juveniles have been detained.
Victorian firefighters could be forced to pull out of NSW towns on Wednesday and head home to where a bushfire is breaching containment lines near the border.
The blaze at Kentbruck in the state's north has already burnt out 9000ha and is likely to remain out of control.
Victorian Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley told the ABC firefighters would remain ready at Wodonga and Wangaratta to battle blazes on either side of the border.
Extreme warnings have been lifted in Tasmania where hundreds were evacuated and properties and stock lost to fires on the state's eastern peninsula at the weekend.
A total fire ban remains in place for NSW and most of Queensland and South Australia.
Current information about road closures throughout Australia can be found www.livetraffic.com or by calling 132 701.