Smoky days ahead for Sydney before mercury begins to ramp up

Pyrocumulus clouds form above a large bushfire in Leadville in the Greater Hunter region of NSW. 12th February 2017, Photo: Wolter Peeters, The Sydney Morning Herald.
Pyrocumulus clouds form above a large bushfire in Leadville in the Greater Hunter region of NSW. 12th February 2017, Photo: Wolter Peeters, The Sydney Morning Herald.
NSW Fire Brigade firefighters with water tanker 88 from Campbelltown mops up after a bushfire threatened homes near Ingleburn.
11th January 2012
Photo: Wolter Peeters

NSW Fire Brigade firefighters with water tanker 88 from Campbelltown mops up after a bushfire threatened homes near Ingleburn. 11th January 2012 Photo: Wolter Peeters

Fire authorities will step up prescribed burning around Sydney this weekend in a bid to reduce the threat from bushfires before temperatures start to climb later in the season.

Emergency service managers gathered in Sydney this week, warning this season's bushfires are likely to begin earlier than usual with forests along the eastern seaboard abnormally dry.

Above average daytime temperatures will continue, with the forecast nudging 30 degrees in Sydney on Tuesday and Wednesday.

After a mild couple of days from Friday through the weekend, temperatures will climb to the high 20s in Sydney for Tuesday and Wednesday, the Bureau of Meteorology predicts.

Inland areas near the city will get to 30 degrees or higher before the next cool change arrives.

Ben Shepherd, head of media at the NSW Rural Fire Service, said hazard-reduction burning was scheduled to take place in a number of areas including the northern beaches, Hornsby, the Hawkesbury region and Sutherland shire over the next week.

"It is drying out quickly and the window of opportunity [for prescribed burning] is staring to close," Inspector Shepherd said.

While many of the fires are likely to be limited in scope - such as 15-20 hectares - the smoke should again be evident in the Sydney basin at least until Sunday, Inspector Shepherd said.

Hundreds of firefighters from various agencies will be active over the weekend, conducting burns or putting out wildfires, he said.

Fire crews attended to a couple of fires near Taree on the Mid North Coast on Thursday afternoon. Earlier in the day, about 90 fires were burning in the state, with about a third of them still to be contained.

Authorities have been restricted in how much burning they have been able to conduct this year after a wet autumn limited such activities during that season.

With NSW having its third-warmest winter for daytime temperatures on record and only about half the typical rain, agencies are aware fires can get a decent start even before the mercury really begins to ramp up.

The forecast offers little sign of early rainfall to reduce the risks with little chance of rain in the coming week.

People living in bushfire-prone areas should start to prepare their survival plans now, and look out for the following weekend's "Get Ready" events, aimed at publicising the steps to take, Inspector Shepherd said.

With Rachel Browne

This story Smoky days ahead for Sydney before mercury begins to ramp up first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.