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Sunday looms as pivotal day in bushfire battle

While no fires reached emergency level n Saturday, Mr Allan said this “was still a day with a lot of fire and these fires are very dangerous and very active.”

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“Right across all fire grounds, our crews are working extremely hard and tiring, but still putting 110 per cent in and while they can, slowing the spread of fire.”

Conditions are easing on Sunday and there are no total fire bans in place, but Mr Allan stressed that people needed to remain alert.

In previous seasons, more homes were lost with fire danger levels at high or very high than at severe or catastrophic.

“It’s still a very dangerous situation,” he said.

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“Especially over the weekend and into the Christmas period, if you’re travelling, know the fire level so you can assess the risk and adopt a bushfire safety plan.”

More than two million hectares of bushland has been destroyed by flames this fire season, with RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons warning the worst might still be ahead.

Mr Fitzsimmons said there may not be much respite for firefighters, with no signs of meaningful rainfall until late January or early February.

“[That] means we’ve got very significant potential to see a lot more countryside, a lot more communities being impacted by fire as we go into the typically hotter months of the year,” he told Channel Nine’s Today.

“It’s a tough couple of months ahead yet and we’ve already seen the horrific consequences of fire so far this season.”

A privately contracted helicopter crashed while fighting the Jarrah Road fire, south of Bulahdelah. The pilot, who was the only person on board, escaped injury while firefighters worked to douse the helicopter’s engine fire.

A Rural Fire Service (RFS) spokesman said all aircraft had been grounded for routine maintenance in the area.

More than 100 bushfires burned across the state on Saturday, and almost half of them were out of control, with a huge blaze – larger than Sydney – having formed north-west of the city.

Seventeen fires are burning at a “watch and act” level, including the blaze at Gospers Mountain, which is almost 300,000 hectares in size on Saturday afternoon.

Orangeville residents defend their property as a bushfire approaches.

Orangeville residents defend their property as a bushfire approaches.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

That’s one of eight out-of-control fires that are burning in a massive grouping that stretches from Sydney’s outskirts, past the Hawkesbury, western areas of the Central Coast and into the Hunter region.

A fire at Green Wattle Creek, south-west of Sydney, is still burning out of control and remains at a “watch and act” level, having already destroyed 5,400 hectares of bushland.

More than 2100 personnel are fighting the fires across the state. About 1600 of them are firefighters.

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A group of 21 specialty firefighters from the US has arrived in Australia, following 21 of their Canadian counterparts.

While the Canadians are being distributed to the north of the state, the Americans will be assigned to areas in the Sydney Basin or southern NSW.

A total fire ban was in place for eight regions across the state on Saturday, including Sydney, Far North Coast, Greater Hunter, the Illawarra and Central Rangers.

As fires rage to the north, residents of Bawley Point are celebrating their escape from a blaze that threatened homes on Friday. But they’ve been warned that the fire could double in size and reach nearby Moruya.

In Taree, a woman was charged with stealing materials and threatening two fencing contractors working to repair fire damage on the Mid North Coast on Friday.

The 62-year-old, who police say possessed a rifle, allegedly drove along the fence line, removing posts and putting them in her vehicle.

The woman is also accused of deliberately driving into the fence line and almost hitting one of the workers.

She was arrested and charged with a range of offences and refused bail to appear before Port Macquarie Local Court on Saturday.

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