She said backburning had successfully contained the fire on the west of Cliff Drive – a key barrier – but winds of up to 100km/h had created serious challenges.
“It’s the biggest hindrance at the moment,” Ms Burford said about the wind.
Despite the gusts, the fire front remained steady in one direction from west to east.
Firefighters from the Rural Fire Service, Fire and Rescue NSW and national parks will continue their efforts on the fire, which was downgraded to ‘advice’ level on Monday night.
On Tuesday morning, the RFS said there were 120 bush and grass fires across the state, 50 of which remain uncontained. There are 1500 firefighters and support personnel and 89 aircraft deployed with “very high” fire danger across several regions.
‘Surrounded’ by fires, no respite from smoke for Sydney
Fires to the north, south and west of Sydney mean regardless of where the wind comes from, the city will be smothered in smoke for at least the next few days, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
“We’ve got smoke on our forecast for the next few days, and it will probably continue beyond,” said meteorologist Neale Fraser.
Early on Tuesday morning the Air Quality Index showed fine particle readings at “very poor” levels in Sydney’s CBD, Rozelle, Chullora, Earlwood and Macquarie Park, and “hazardous” levels at Camden, Campbelltown, Liverpool and Oakdale.
“Over the previous weeks, most of the fires have been in northern NSW so when we’ve had southerly changes it’s blown them away,” Mr Fraser said.
“But now the fires are all over the state so we’re surrounded. Any wind direction will bring the smoke across Sydney.”
Mr Fraser said a temperature inversion would trap the smoke over the city overnight. The warmer air is held above cooler air – which is the opposite of what normally occurs, with air usually getting colder at a higher altitude.
Smoke resulting from fires has nowhere to go, resulting in a layer of smoke.
“Because the Sydney basin is surrounded by mountains, it traps everything like it has a lid,” he said.
‘Emergency’ level fire in Shoalhaven downgraded
For some residents on the south coast, it was too late to leave on Monday afternoon as a large fire in the Shoalhaven area continued to burn towards the coast. The fire was downgraded to “watch and act” overnight, and on Tuesday morning was the only fire that rated at that level by the RFS.
“The focus was on primarily where [the fire] had spotted over the Princes Highway to the east. Right on the coast, there’s a lot of fairly isolated properties. The highway was closed from Bawley Point Road to Bateman’s Bay,” Ms Burford said.
People living west of the Princes Highway between Termeil and East Lynne and areas between Bawley Point and North Durras, including Kioloa, Depot Beach, Pebbly Beach and Pretty Beach, were advised to seek shelter on Monday.
Crews totalling 130 firefighters worked to slow the spread of the fire, with the help of an air tanker which released a line of retardant along the fire front.
That fire has now burned through more than 24,500 hectares, with evacuation centres set up at the Ulladulla Civic Centre and Hanging Rock Sports Club in Batemans Bay.
With temperatures rising, there will be minimal respite for fire crews in terms of rainfall this week. The Bureau of Meteorology said Sydney may see showers on Saturday but not significant rainfall, and the rest of NSW will have less.
Matt Bungard is a journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.
Jenny Noyes is a journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald. She was previously a writer and editor at Daily Life.