| 08.09,19. 08:25 AM |
NSW bushfires continue to burn, with calmer conditions forecast
Photo: Conditions were set to ease on Sunday as winds decreased. (Facebook: Fire and rescue Glen Innes)
As the winds are set to ease on Sunday, firefighters continue to battle multiple fires across the state in what has been an unprecedented start to the NSW bushfire season.
The strong winds, which had topped 100 kilometres per hour across the state, are forecast to lose power on Sunday as the low pressure system east of Bass Strait that had caused the conditions moves away.
More than 730 firefighters had been working over the weekend to tackle 62 fires across the state, seven of which remain out of control.
Two fires of major concern to emergency services in the state's far north have been downgraded overnight.
Conditions eased slightly overnight at Bees Nest, near Armidale, and at Long Gully, near Drake, with both fires now at watch and act level.
Fires at Legume and Mount Mackenzie Road in Tenterfield and Cobargo in the Bega Valley and South Maroota in the Hills Shire were also downgraded overnight but residents have been warned to keep monitoring the advice.
Anthony Bradstreet from the NSW Rural Fire Service said the 100kph winds had passed.
"We've been seeing gusts up to 40-60 kph overnight, so it's been pretty challenging for our firefighters on the ground," he said.
The RFS said an initial assessment of fire-affected areas had found five homes, 20 outbuildings, two car yards and a pistol club damaged in the Tenterfield area. In Lidsdale, one home and three outbuildings were damaged.
NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said on Saturday that the early fires were an indication of a dangerous bushfire season ahead.
"Never before have we recorded extreme fire danger conditions this early in the month of September," he said.
"Normally, you would expect those sorts of conditions as you come closer into the summer months.
"It is a sobering reminder of what is ahead, with the outlook indicating the next three or four months is dominated by above-average temperatures, below average rainfall and unfortunately there is no meaningful signal anywhere for drought-breaking, relieving rain."
The Insurance Council of Australia has declared the bushfires a catastrophe and will give priority to claims from affected policyholders.
It has established a hotline — 1800 734 621 — to assist policyholders and field inquiries about claims.
It said it was planning to organise community meetings to give property owners information about the claims process.
The ICA head of risk and operations Karl Sullivan said it had not declared a bushfire catastrophe for some years.
"So this is a sign that we're facing probably quite a serious bushfire season both in northern New South Wales and throughout Queensland," he said.
He added it was too early to assess what the number of claims lodged might be.
"That's quite typical with an event like this where there's been a lot of evacuations and people have been following the advice of emergency services to remove themselves from harm's way.
"Our guidance is don't take any unnecessary risks, continue to follow the advice of emergency services when it is safe to do so.
"When you're allowed to do so return to your property and assess if you need to make a claim at that point at the moment."