UPDATE 2.30pm: THE town of Springwood in the Blue Mountains is now coming under ember attack, triggering a new emergency warning from the Rural Fire Service.
The new warning is not yet visible on the RFS website, but the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting the town, about 20km west of Penrith, is coming under attack from the main fire near it as winds increase.
The closest fire to Springwood is the out-of-control Linksview Road blaze which, according to the RFS fire map, has already burned out more than 3000 hectares of land.
The Rural Fire Service website has this blaze listed as "watch and act" - one level below "emergency" - and warns the fire's intensity has increased and burning embers are now being blown towards homes in the town.
The website reports extra firefighters are being deployed to protect the town, which has already been largely evacuated.
UPDATE 12.40pm: ANYONE who sees a fire anywhere in NSW today should call 000 immediately, Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has said.
"Do not assume that someone else is calling in that fire," he said during his second press conference of the day.
"On days like today, minutes really matter. The lightning continues. As we speak we're tracking lightning activity in the north west of NSW, places north of Bourke and down through to Walgett.
"Until we see some absolutely drought-breaking rains across these fire grounds, they are going to be susceptible to flare-up and re-ignition for many, many, many weeks."
Mr Fitzsimmons' comments come as the Rural Fire Service upgraded the fire danger rating for the Mid-North Coast to "severe", only one level below the "extreme" rating faced by the Hunter and Greater Sydney.
The Rural Fire Service has also issued an emergency warning for a scrub fire burning west of Newcastle.
Reports out of Sydney suggest wind gusts in the Blue Mountains have been recorded at up to 90km/h with temperatures soaring past the 30C mark a couple of hours ago.
The temperature in the Blue Mountains was expected to fall by as much as 10C later today, but that fall was likely to be accompanied by continuing high winds and low humidity, making little difference to the fire threat.
Between Coffs Harbour and the Queensland border and between the coast and the New England highway, there are currently 12 fires burning, one of which is out of control and none of which are currently classed as endangering life or property.
6am: A TOTAL fire ban is in force from the Illawarra to the Queensland border as firefighters brace for what is feared could be a frightening day in the Blue Mountains.
Intense efforts to contain major blazes west of Sydney have led to the reduction in status of the State Mine fire from "emergency warning" to "watch and act".
However, the Rural Fire Service has also set the fire danger level for the Greater Sydney and Hunter regions at "extreme" - the second highest level below "catastrophic" - and the Bureau of Meteorology has this morning issued a fire weather warning covering those areas and stretching up the North Coast.
Around Sydney, the Bureau is warning of a hot, dry and windy day despite a chance of showers this morning. Temperatures where thousands of firefighters - including some from the North Coast - are battling the most dangerous fires are expected to reach into the mid-30s and winds are tipped to run at up to 50km/h.
Fairfax Media has quoted Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons saying today's weather forecast is even worse than the one firefighters had been warning about since the weekend.
"This will be as bad as it gets,'' Mr Fitzsimmons is quoted saying. ''On days like [this], there's a very real potential for more loss of homes and life."
The ABC has quoted Mr Fitzsimmons urging people to stay away from the area.
"If you don't need to be in the Blue Mountains or Hawkesbury regions, don't go there. You're not welcome," he said.
"You're not needed. Don't get in the way of what might be necessary thoroughfares for people choosing to leave, or being required to leave."
On the Northern Rivers and Mid-North Coast, where the Rural Fire Service has set the fire danger level at "very high", the Bureau is forecasting temperatures reaching towards the mid-30s in many areas, cooling on the northern coast to lows of 26 at Byron Bay and Tweed Heads.
Winds are expected to be less troublesome on the North Coast, with the Bureau tipping wind speeds of up to 35km/h on the Mid-North Coast and 30km/h for the Northern Rivers.
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