Planned burns delayed ahead of 'next big hit' of fire danger

The exceptionally dry conditions around Sydney and much of the state have prompted the Rural Fire Service to scale back hazard reduction burning this weekend.

A burn planned for about 100 hectares in the northern beaches has been delayed indefinitely, while other fires are being reviewed, Ben Shepherd, head of RFS media, said.

Two small burns, one near Mona Vale Road and another in The Hills region, will proceed on Sunday, weather permitting.

As of Friday afternoon, about 60 fires were burning across the state, with 25 uncontained, Inspector Shepherd said.

Saturday is likely to see very high fire ratings for the Hunter and the mid-coast.

The "next big hit" of very high fire danger for Sydney is likely to come on Monday when temperatures climb back into the mid-20s or higher, he said.

While there is the chance of a couple of millimetres in isolated showers, the ongoing dry spell is set to continue for at least another week.

"We need a lot of rain," Inspector Shepherd said.

The chances, though, of a shift in weather patterns is receding if the Bureau of Meteorology's outlooks are any guide.

The latest projection for October, issued this week, points to an easing of rainfall chances back towards more average levels for next month. (See bureau chart below.)

By contrast, the bureau had been predicting as recently as two weeks earlier, that an increase in easterly winds would begin to favour above-average rainfall for most of eastern Australia. (See bureau chart below.)

The accuracy of the rainfall models for this time of year is "moderate", the bureau says.

Jacob Cronje, a senior meteorologist with Weatherzone, said the west of the NSW ranges was particularly dry.

With fuel moisture levels low, it did not have to be particularly hot for fires to get going, particularly if a strong system moved through, strengthening winds, he said.

The winds also do not have to be especially strong to disrupt air traffic, as seen this week in Sydney.

Sustained westerlies this week of more than 25 knots (46km/h) were enough to put two of Sydney Airport's three runways out of action because of crosswinds, with many flights delayed or cancelled.

"It looks like things are dying down now," Mr Cronje said.

While winds will pick up again on Tuesday, they are not likely to be as strong as in the past couple of days, he said.

Saturday will bring pleasant conditions before Sunday cools off. The next real burst of warmth for Sydney is likely to come by next weekend when temperatures could climb into the high 20s or low 30s, Mr Cronje said.

Those headed for the ski resorts this weekend should enjoy a fresh dusting of snow on Saturday before conditions "start to clear up nicely", he said.

According to Snowy Hydro's snow depth gauge at Spencers Creek in the Snowy Mountains, this year's snow falls have easily exceeded last year. (See chart below.)

Weatherzone is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.

This story Planned burns delayed ahead of 'next big hit' of fire danger first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.