The NSW Rural Fire Service has upgraded the fire threat in parts of the state – including Orange and the Central West – amid warnings of “catastrophic conditions” that are expected to take hold around midday.
A post on the Canobolas RFS Facebook page reads “today [Sunday] is the first catastrophic fire danger rating for Canobolas Zone.”
The post continues “a catastrophic rating means that for your survival, leaving early is the only option because under these conditions, your home will not provide protection.”
As NSW faces the “worst possible fire conditions” in its history with 'extreme' and catastrophic' warnings in place across large slabs of the state, RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the situation was as "bad as it gets" and warned it was set to get worse on Sunday when winds are expected to sweep through scorched parts of the Central West and mid and northern NSW.
“To put it simply [the conditions] are off the old scale," he said.
“It is without precedent in NSW.”
On Sunday, the RFS reported 76 bush and grass fires across NSW with 18 not yet contained.
Deputy Commission Rob Rogerssaid on Sunday morning: “it's going to be a really tough day.”
Weather conditions are expected to deteriorate during the morning with the Bureau of Meteorology now saying catastrophic conditions may emerge around 11am to 12pm.
The RFS is particularly concerned about a fire burning east of Dunedoo and expect it to break containment lines.
Deputy Commissioner Rogers warned residents in areas listed as 'catastrophic' to leave their homes.
“We've got everything we can possibly need to be ready for this but obviously in conditions forecast like this, we can't guarantee to save everybody, we can't guarantee to save every house, we can't even guarantee to have a fire truck at every fire.
"People just need to focus on their own safety today."
A dramatic graphic image of the threat released by the RFS on Sunday shows a great swathe of the state covered in red, representing a 'catastrophic' or 'extreme' threat.
The area stretches from the lower central west plains taking in Dubbo, Parkes and Wellington, right up to the Queensland border in the north western region taking in Moree and Walgett.
The extreme threat stretches to the east taking in Gunnedah, Tamworth and the coastal Kempsey, Coffs Harbour region.
On Sunday morning, the Southern Ranges and Easter RIverina were upgraded to very high fire danger.
He said strong winds were affecting fire fighters' ability to tackle the fires from the air with much of the fleet grounded.
Commissioner Fitzsimmons said conditions in some parts of NSW could be worse than Victoria's Black Saturday fires, Australia's worst ever fire disaster which claimed 173 lives in 2009.
He warned residents to prepare themselves.
“We can't guarantee that a warning or telephone message will occur for everyone that comes under threat,” he said.
Text message warnings were being sent to residents in the Hunter Valley region on Saturday night.