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Winds wreak havoc on firefighting efforts near Katoomba

She said backburning had successfully contained the fire on the west of Cliff Drive – a key barrier  – but winds of up to 100 km/h were creating serious challenges.

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“It’s the biggest hindrance at the moment,” Ms Burford said about the wind.

Despite the gusts, the fire front has 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 is at ‘watch and act’ level.

‘Emergency’ level fire in Shoalhaven

For some on the south coast, it was too late to leave this afternoon as a large fire in the Shoalhaven area continues to burn towards the coast. It is currently the only fire that is rated at ’emergency’ level by the RFS.

“Today 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.

Crews totalling 130 firefighters remain on the scene and have been working 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 burned through 15,000 hectares so far, with evacuation centres set up at the Ulladulla Civic Centre and Hanging Rock Sports Club in Batemans Bay.

Across the state, 54 fires remain uncontained, with 2100 crew members working against them. Three fires around the state are at ‘watch and act’ status, including two in close proximity at Green Wattle Creek and The Peaks, in Wollondilly shire.

RFS volunteers talk to locals and keep an eye on the Green Wattle Creek fire.

RFS volunteers talk to locals and keep an eye on the Green Wattle Creek fire.Credit:Nick Moir

There will be minimal respite for fire crews in terms of rainfall. The Bureau of Meteorology says Sydney may see showers on Saturday but not significant rainfall and the rest of New South Wales will have less.

‘Surrounded’ by fires, no respite from smoke for Sydney

Fires north, south and west of Sydney mean regardless of where the wind is coming 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.

Latest readings from the Air Quality Index showed a ‘hazardous’ level in several parts of the city, including Randwick, Earlwood, Camden and Liverpool.

“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.

"Surrounded": Sydney will remain under a blanket of smoke for most of the week.

“Surrounded”: Sydney will remain under a blanket of smoke for most of the week.Credit:James Brickwood

“But now the fires are all over the state so we’re surrounded. Any wind direction will bring the smoke across Sydney.”

Smoke will worsen overnight, Mr Fraser said, during what is known as a temperature inversion. 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.

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