More than 90 firefighters and 21 trucks pulled out of Bathurst yesterday morning on a mission to protect embattled communities in the Blue Mountains as the area braced for a day of hellish conditions.
The firefighters from Fire and Rescue NSW make up the Division Region West Strike Team.
Members of the strike team travelled from a wide area that includes Dubbo, Orange, Leeton, Hay and the Upper Hunter. It includes 16 crew from Kelso, Bathurst and Orange brigades as well as four trucks.
Orange sent four staff and a tanker.
It is feared fire conditions today will be "as bad as it gets" with mass school closures, a threat to property and life and a plea for anyone without a reason to be in the NSW Blue Mountains to get out.
"This will be as bad as it gets," Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons warned.
" There's a very real potential for more loss of homes and life."
The warning came as firefighters prepared to face an active 1500km fire edge in the Blue Mountains in strong winds and soaring temperatures.
"It's a difficult, dynamic, dangerous fireground situation," Mr Fitzsimmons said.
Mr Fitzsimmons said today's weather conditions would be worse than initially feared.
"They are going to be worse to the point that the fire danger rating across most of the Greater Sydney area, the Hunter and indeed the fireground areas of the Blue Mountains and Southern Highlands, are going to be widespread extreme fire danger ratings."
Mr Fitzsimmons said temperatures would be in the mid to high 30s with wind gusts of up to 100 kilometres predicted.
"You've got a whole new ball game. It's more than just a bad weather day," he said.
Mr Fitzsimmons advised Blue Mountains residents to leave the area before lunchtime yesterday.
Thousands of firefighters and 90 aircraft were battling 57 fires, 17 of them uncontained. The RFS announced all Blue Mountains schools, pre-schools and childcare centres would be closed, with some nursing homes evacuated.
More than 200 homes have already been destroyed by the fires. Emergency Services Minister Michael Gallacher is telling parents to keep their children close.
All dressed up
Canobolas Zone firefighters have teamed up with members from Northwest to form a rapid response strike force, reading to go at any given moment.
The strike force is on five minutes notice to respond to the Blue Mountains fires as soon as they get the go ahead from the major incident co-ordinator in Sydney.
There are 21 members of the strike force waiting at the Canobolas Zone headquarters and they are not allowed to leave the building.
If they get the call up, three heavy tankers, one light tanker and two command vehicles will move out but the Canobolas Zone asset and infrastructure officer Steve Smith said there were “more than adequate resources” left behind to deal with any incidents that may spark up in the region.
He said the main concern for officers was that thunderstorms forecast for the central west may cause fires here and the zone relies heavily on aircraft deployed to the Blue Mountains.
However he said the RFS could rely on a plane stationed at Dubbo and one at Parkes.
"Our concern is how fast we can get it here," he said.