The town of Balmoral in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales has been almost destroyed by ferocious bush fires.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed "there's not much left in the town of Balmoral".
"The devastation is shocking."
Crews worked tirelessly as the town was ravaged for the second time in days. One rural firefighter suffered heat exhaustion — one of four injured at the frontline.
Resident Mick Duggan told the Sunday Telegraph the firefighter, Matty Eyles, was collapsed on the ground and covered in ice packs when he opened his eyes.
"The first words out of his mouth were 'we saved your house, mate'," Duggan said.
NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said horrific conditions had resulted in significant destruction across large parts of the state. An "enormous amount of fire" was still burning after a "very long and volatile" night, which damaged or completely destroyed dozens of properties.
A southerly change swept through, spreading the blazes and making them behave erratically.
"We've seen widespread damage and destruction," Fitzsimmons said.
At least 20 homes were lost to the immense Gospers Mountain fire northwest of Sydney alone, where astonishing footage showed flames raging up a gigantic cliffside.
"And the destruction ranges from places like Lithgow, Dargan, places around Balmoral and out towards Buxton," Fitzsimmons said.
"I commend the firefighters for their extraordinary response and their efforts yesterday in awful conditions," Fitzsimmons said.
The destruction around Balmoral and Bargo caused by the Green Wattle Creek fire follows the loss of up to 40 properties on Thursday.
As many as 20 homes are now feared destroyed in the Blue Mountains region. The worst damage has been in Lithgow.
Firefighters worked there to save properties as blazes lit up randomly on the streets as embers rained down from the Gospers mega-fire.
"I'm very afraid for all of us," a resident told Nine News.
With flames licking the ground, police were seen frantically going door to door to evacuate residents.
A fire-generated thunderstorm formed over fires in Shoalhaven, potentially escalating danger.
"A pyro-cumulonimbus can create erratic winds and dry lightning and result in significantly faster fire spread," the RFS warned. Similar storms could develop over Gospers Mountain, it said.
Fires continue in South Australia, where a second person was confirmed dead.