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Holiday warmth ahead for NSW coast as bushfire season formally begins

“It’s an ideal long weekend, weatherwise,” Ben Domensino, a senior forecaster with Weatherzone, said. “The winds will not be too strong as those northerlies strengthen ahead of an approaching front.”

The Rural Fire Service was tackling eight fires on Thursday afternoon, with just three yet to be contained, Ben Shepherd, a senior RFS spokesman, said.

A fire near Currarong on the NSW South Coast was one a number of blazes burning on Wednesday, the official start of NSW's fire season.

A fire near Currarong on the NSW South Coast was one a number of blazes burning on Wednesday, the official start of NSW’s fire season.Credit:Nick Moir

That compared with as many as 100 fires or more at the start of October last year. The statewide fire season typically commences on October 1.

The recent good rains over inland NSW had reduced the fire threat in forested areas but spurred good crop and grass growth west of the Divide.

With many people likely to be travelling in NSW during the school holiday rather than further afield because of COVID-19 restrictions, people should be aware of the grassfire risks in particular, Mr Shepherd said.

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The warm start to October follows an unusually mild September nationally.

Last month was Australia’s warmest September on record for minimum temperatures, beating the previous high set in 2013 by almost a quarter of a degree, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

The overnight warmth was aided by increased cloud cover over much of the continent. Even so, those clouds did not hinder the country recording its second-hottest September for mean and maximum temperatures, trailing only September 2013 in records dating back to 1910.

For Sydney alone, Observatory Hill daytime readings were about 2.6 degrees above the long-run average last month. So far this year, average maximums are running about 1.8 degrees above the norm, the bureau said.

The city’s rainfall was about a third of a typical September but big rain events earlier in the year mean Observatory Hill’s tally so far in 2020 is about 30 per cent wetter than usual.

The recent wet spells have limited the ability of fire crews to conduct hazard-reduction burning.

As September turned drier, though, the RFS and fellow agencies stepped up prescribed burns, with about 13,000 hectares burnt in the month alone, Mr Shepherd said.

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