BUSHFIRES in NSW have left one man dead and hundreds of homes feared destroyed and there could be worse news to come.
More than 1500 firefighters were on the ground in several areas of the state yesterday as more than 90 fires scorched through 91,000 hectares and destroyed at least
Walter Linder, 63, collapsed from a heart attack while defending his house at Lake Munmorah on the central coast on Thursday and died at Wyong Hospital.
As residents and emergency services began returning to affected areas, Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons warned more casualties may be discovered.
“There is a possibility that we might find people who haven’t been able to get out of harm’s way,” he said.
He said the fires were some of the most damaging and destructive the state has seen.
Last night 81 properties were confirmed to have been destroyed and 37 damaged by blazes in the Blue Mountains communities of Springwood and Winmalee.
But with only 30 per cent of the area so far being inspected, the RFS expects the numbers to rise.
One local, Helen Walton, who has lived through three major bushfires since moving to the mountains said the fire — which scorched almost 2000 hectares — was by far the worst she had seen.
But her house remains and she vows to as well.
Springwood resident Catherine Hubbard made a terrifying escape from the bushfire that destroyed her home, seeking refuge with strangers.
“The sun was totally blocked out and houses were burning down to the ground all around us,” she said.
Without running water, the neighbours used buckets and wet towels to douse embers, knowing the house was their only refuge.
Then came a change in the wind which cleared a path through the smoke.
“It was a miracle, actually,” Ms Hubbard said.
While the Blue Mountains was the worst hit region, residents of Lithgow, the Southern Highlands and the central coast also faced another tough day as blazes flared up, with the fire in Balmoral running rapidly.
At Catherine Hill Bay village near Lake Macquarie, resident Wayne Demarco surveyed the destruction caused by Thursday’s fire.
“It looks horrible with telephone poles burned to the ground and things just destroyed,” he said.
Two firefighters are in hospital with burns and a Winmalee man is being treated for smoke inhalation.
But there was some good news last night, with all blazes downgraded to a “watch and act” alert or below as humidity rose and winds dropped.
Firefighters were strengthening containment lines and getting
out of control blazes in check before worsening weather conditions tomorrow and Monday.