State survives deadly day of dry heat
NEW South Wales stared down one of its hottest, driest, and potentially deadliest days of the year yesterday.
Hot and dry westerly winds parched the eastern half of the state from 8am, with gusts up to 70kmh in some areas.
A total fire ban was in force across three quarters of the state, with a severe fire danger rating for the Northern Rivers and an even higher "extreme" rating around Sydney, the Hunter, and the Illawarra.
The fire ban has been lifted today and the danger level eased back to "very high", which sits at the top of the lower-end of the fire warning spectrum and is one level down from yesterday's "severe" warning.
In the Clarence Valley, 13 bushfires - some burning out of control - saw a Section 44 bushfire emergency declared by the RFS Commissioner, green lighting large-scale reinforcements from the rest of the state.
There remain several fires burning out of control around the North Coast, including one in the Richmond Range National Park near Kyogle, but none were considered a threat.
Fire hunting was ruled out in the hazardous conditions, with property protection the main aim for firefighters both on the ground and in the air.
Locally, the Northern Rivers RFS was dealing with two smaller fires around Bonalbo and in remote country west of Whiporie.
Evans Head was the surprise hot spot yesterday afternoon, recording a top of 34.6 at 3pm, but with Casino nipping its heels at 33.
Ballina peaked at 30 degrees about lunchtime, with Lismore reaching 32, and Byron just 23.
Topping the state as of 4pm was Sydney airport at 37.3 degrees - just one degree less than the harbour city's hottest ever October day of 38.2. A stationary high pressure system over eastern Australia, bringing strong westerlies and heat, was responsible for the fire-prone weather. The danger was made worse by the lack of rainfall during August and September.
Warmer than average spring temperatures are highly likely to continue along coastal NSW.