Key points:
• A state of emergency has been declared in New South Wales;
• Fires have arrived on Sydney's north shore;
• Greater Sydney, Greater Hunter and Illawarra/Shoalhaven face "catastrophic fire danger";
• There are 77 fires burning in NSW, 36 of those are uncontained;
• A cool change is expected in the early evening, which could see fires change direction;
• 65 fires are burning in Queensland;
• Hundreds of schools across both states were closed today;
Oz smoke plume to hit NZ tomorrow: What you need to know

A bushfire has erupted in one of Sydney's most prestigious suburbs, confirming firefighters' worst fears as flames close in on homes.

The Canoon Road fire at South Turramurra in Ku-ring-gai was spreading quickly but firefighters have doused houses in red fire-retardant to protect them. Firefighters now have that fire under control and say the immediate threat to properties has eased.

Haze covers the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Haze covers the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

But still the highest level of "catastrophic fire danger" is forecast for the Greater Hunter, Greater Sydney and Illawarra/Shoalhaven regions, while "extreme fire danger" is the warning for the North Coast, Southern Ranges, Central Ranges, New England, Northern Slopes and North Western areas.

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The NSW Rural Fire Service has warned residents to leave homes immediately in areas facing the greatest danger, taking their pets with them.

Emergency warnings are active for 9 fires (at 11.30pm). They are:

• The fire in Washpool State Forest, near Coombadjha;
• The Liberation Trail fire, near Nana Glen;
• The Rumba Dump fire, in the area of Elands, Bobin and Marlee;
• The Stockyard East fire, west of Wauchope;
• The Reserves Road fire, near Mares Run;
• The Thunderbolts Way fire, near Bretti;
• The Myall Creek Road fire, near Woodburn;
• The Hillville Road fire, just south of Taree;
• The Gospers Mountain fire, near Putty.

South Turramurra bushfire

South Turramurra: Emergency warning for an out of control fire near Canoon Road. Fire Updates: http://7news.link/VPzASL #NSWfires #7NEWS

Posted by 7NEWS Sydney on Monday, 11 November 2019

The latest updates:

'32.4C to 20.5C in 11 minutes'

11.42pm

The temperature at Sydney Airport dropped 12 degrees in 11 minutes as the cold southerly hit this evening with a wind gust of 67km/h.

The Bureau of Meteorology says change has yet to hit the firegrounds so situation remains "extremely volatile".

Temperatures peaked in the high 30s today with wind speeds of 80km/h and 5 per cent humidity.

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Carrai East downgraded

11.30pm

The Carrai East fire, west of Kempsey has now also been downgraded.

That brings us to nine emergency warnings.

Carrai Creek downgraded

11pm

The fire at Carrai Creek has been downgraded to watch and act.

The Carrai East fire remains at emergency level, as does the Stockyard East fire further southeast near Port Macquarie.

There are now 10 active emergency warnings.

The 'dead man zone'

10.45pm

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has delivered a grim warning for the night ahead, with the cool change expected to hit Taree on the mid north coast at around 11pm local time.

He again stressed the danger that sudden wind changes can pose.

"It's very dangerous across active firegrounds," he said.

"The simple description of that is when we've got very strong north-westerly winds driving fire behaviour, you get a fire that spreads generally in an easterly direction or a south-easterly direction and it's usually a large elongated firefront.

"The head is relatively small in width but the flanks of the fire become very long. When that fire gets hit with a southerly buster or a southerly change, that very long flank now suddenly becomes a very wide progressive firefront that moves in a northerly direction under a southerly change.

"Historically, when men used to be the only firefighters, it was called the 'dead man zone' because historically too many firefighters were killed on the northern flanks of fires in southerly changes or wind changes came in and and fire spread to what was otherwise a benign side of the fire driven in a different direction by a different wind direction, if that makes sense."

The state of emergency will be in effect for a week and will be reassessed over tonight and tomorrow.

Mr Fitzsimmons said he could not overstate the enormity of the task facing firefighters, with 70 fires consuming an area of more than one million hectares.

"A fire of 100,000 hectares typically has a perimeter of around 1000km," he said. Asked if there were any fires in particular "we should be keeping an eye on", he said, "All of them."

"Seriously. (The cold change) is going to get to Taree by about 11. It's probably not going to get to the northern areas of NSW until midnight or early hours of the morning," he said.

"So when you think about it, most of our fires, apart from the one that's in the Hawkesbury area at the moment near the Putty Road, most of the other fires are that we have got that occupy close to the 70-odd fires, are generally speaking from the Taree area to the Queensland border.

"So all of these fires are going to command a deal of attention tonight and be certainly exposed to the effects of the southerly change. Whether it's a coastal issue on south-south-easterly or whether it's high up in the ranges and more south-south-westerly, all of those fire grounds have the potential to be increased and exacerbated by the effects of that southerly change even if it is 2:00 in the morning.

"We have seen in recent weeks dramatic fire spread in the late night, early hours of the morning when theoretically conditions should be easing and settling down."

'300 new fires today'

10.25pm

Evening update from RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.

Initial reports suggest there were 300 new fires today.

"Some started and were dealt with very rapidly, others stayed around for a few hours, indeed others we are still dealing with," he said.

"It was an extraordinary effort right across the at-risk areas, the firefighters, the extraordinary way they attacked, the rapid response, and the use of aircraft made a significant difference in bringing so many of the under control."

Up to a dozen homes have been damaged or destroyed, particularly up through the Hunter and the north coast, but Mr Fitzsimmons did not have any other details.

There are no unaccounted for people at this stage.

Two fires downgraded

9.45pm:

Two fires on the far north coast have been downgraded from emergency warning level.

The Gulf Road fire, northwest of Coffs Harbour, and the Kian Road fire, halfway between Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie, are now at watch and act level.

There are now 11 active emergency warnings in NSW.

'Danger hour'

9pm:

It's still around 33.5C in Sydney but firefighters are bracing for danger hour, with a cold "southerly buster" making its way up the coast from Victoria.

The Bureau of Meteorology says the cool change has already started to make its way up NSW. A sudden change in wind direction can dramatically escalate the intensity of a bushfire.

"Any fires burning near the coast will become extremely dangerous as the change arrives as the fire flank will suddenly become the fire front," Sky News meteorologist Rob Sharpe told news.com.au's Benedict Brook earlier.

Meanwhile, air quality in Sydney has been deemed "hazardous".

Wall of flame breaches lines

8.30pm:

The Liberation Trail fire near Nana Glen – northwest of Coffs Harbour where actor Russell Crowe has a property – has breached containment lines.

The fire burning in the Nymboi-Binderlay National Park is now threatening Yarracooma, Paddys Plain, Cradle Creek and Lowanna.

People are being warned to leave now towards Dorrigo before it is too late.

Harper Street fire downgraded

8.10pm:

The fire at Harper Street in Greta, near Newcastle, has been downgraded from emergency to watch and act.

It is now listed as being controlled.

That brings us back to 13 active emergency warnings.

Updates on the big picture

7.50pm:

The latest update from RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons is that there are 85 fires, 46 of those not contained and 17 at watch and act level.

We've also put in a call to Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, who say there are currently 65 fires burning, none at emergency level.

Fitzsimmons said the report of the firefighter suffering cardiac arrest at North Rothbury was a false alarm.

"Pleasingly, when the ambulance arrived, they identified that wasn't the case," he said.

"It was a case of severe heat stroke and smoke inhalation and the firefighter had collapsed. That firefighter has been treated and is being transported for appropriate attention."

There was another injury at the Turramurra fire, a firefighters "appears to have suffered some fractures, a fracture to the arm, and suspected fractured ribs", Fitzsimmons said.

For residents of Turramurra concerned about their new paint job, Fitzsimmons said RFS would publish guidance about hosing down the flame retardant on its website.

Homes in Sydney covered in red fire retardant. Photo / news.com.au
Homes in Sydney covered in red fire retardant. Photo / news.com.au

"It will wash down with water," he said.

"We delivered that airplane as an urgent dispatch to quell the fire and support the firefighters on the ground. Clearly, it's not only hit the mark of the fire, but extended into the road and we've got crews, we've got vehicles, we've got homes, we've got property that are now coloured pink or red."

He added, "The colour is simply a dye added to the product, so when we drop it, we can see where it has gone. It's a phosphate based product and it can be washed off quite quickly."

Turramurra fire downgraded

7.30pm:

The fire at South Turramurra on Sydney's north shore has now been downgraded from emergency to advice level.

Aerial images showed homes in the exclusive suburb doused in bright red flame retardant.

The Canoon Road fire is still listed as out-of-control, while a second South Turramurra fire at Kissing Point Road is under control.

That makes 14 current emergency warnings.

Looters spotted in Coffs Harbour

7.10pm:

Looters have been spotted taking advantage of the bushfires ravaging NSW by attempting to break into homes on the state's north coast.

A group of men in two utes were reportedly seen trying to break into homes around Coffs Harbour.

A local resident said each vehicle had three to four men inside.

More emergencies

7pm:

New South Wales RFS now lists 15 fires at emergency level.

In the last few minutes we've had emergency warnings for Stockyard East and Carrai Creek in the Port Macquarie area.

The Carrai Creek and Carrai East fires are burning west of Kempsey. The fire is threatening the area of Lower Creek. If you are in the area take shelter now. It is too late to leave.

The Stockyard Creek fire is burning in the area of Mount Seaview, west of Wauchope.

If you are in the area of Mount Seaview, seek shelter. It is too late to leave. Fire activity is increasing in the area of the Oxley Highway west of Wauchope.

Earlier there was an emergency warning for the Gospers Mountain fire, northwest of Gosford.

The fire is currently 4km from Putty and is threatening the areas north of Kallool and south of Fleet Wing.

Meanwhile, the Wine Country Drive fire has been downgraded to watch and act.

Smoky hazy from the fires covers the city of Sydney.
Smoky hazy from the fires covers the city of Sydney.

Fire on Sydney's north shore

6.45pm:

Fire has arrived on Sydney's leafy north shore.

The Canoon Road fire at South Turramurra in Ku-ring-gai is spreading quickly. It is too late to leave. Seek shelter as the fire approaches.

It's the 13th emergency warning and the furthest south so far.

A second fire at Kissing Point Road in South Turramurra is under control. In Sydney's west, a fire at Fourth Avenue in Llandilo is also under control.

Smoke stretches over houses in the suburbs of Sydney. Photo / ABC News
Smoke stretches over houses in the suburbs of Sydney. Photo / ABC News

Firefighter suffers cardiac arrest

6.30pm:

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says a firefighter has suffered a suspected cardiac arrest.

"I have some reports of injuries to a firefighter and potentially a serious injury with reports of a cardiac arrest in the Hunter," he told a media conference this afternoon.

"We have an ambulance dispatched as we speak. That happened in the last moments. Just prior to walking in the door."

He also gave an update on the damage so far.

"We are talking about a number of structures being damaged," he said.

"I haven't got details on whether they've been destroyed but certainly impacted by fire. In the Hillville fire area, particularly in the south area of Taree there, heading down towards Nabiac but fire is also burning up towards the river just south of Taree as well. As I say, we also have reports of a number of homes being damaged in the North Rothbury area."

Twelfth emergency warning

5:45pm

Firefighters are on the scene of a fast-moving grass fire at Harper Street in Greta, northwest of Newcastle.

Residents should seek shelter as the fire approaches.

That makes a dozen emergency warnings now across the state.

"We now have 78 fires burning across New South Wales, 47 of those are not contained," RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

"We have 12 fires at the emergency warning alert level and we have another eight fires at the watch and act alert level."

Fitzsimmons said fire dangers ratings of severe and extreme were widespread with some indices reaching catastrophic, particularly down through the Illawarra and Shoalhaven.

"We are seeing very strong winds coming down through the Hunter region and across the Central Tablelands area which is influencing and driving a deal of this fire behaviour," he said.

"We've had a number of fires in and around the Sydney Basin area but the collective efforts of firefighters has meant that they've been able to get on top of those fires and bring them under control very quickly and they've remained at the advice alert level."

Fitzsimmons said he was still concerned about the movement of the southerly change coming over the next few hours.

"It is still expected to get up towards Sydney around 7 to 8 tonight. Then obviously further north as we get into the late evening, early hours of the morning."

Fresh blow for man comforted by Prime Minister

5.35pm:

A man pictured being comforted by Scott Morrison in a heartbreaking photo has been dealt another blow after being evacuated from his home for a second time.

On Sunday Scott Morrison visited victims at the Club Taree Evacuation Centre in Taree.

There he met 85-year-old Owen Whalan who broke down in tears after being evacuated from his Koorainghat property.

During the meeting Whalan had no idea whether his home had been lost but told Morrison he was pleased his dogs had survived.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison comforts Owen Whalan. Photo / Today
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison comforts Owen Whalan. Photo / Today

Today Whalan and his wife Catherine returned to their home to find it had survived the fires.

Speaking with Today, the 85-year-old said a neighbour with a water truck had taken it upon himself to water down homes around the area.

However not long after arriving back home he was forced to leave for a second time as the fires flared back up.

Nine-year-old boy caught lighting fire

5.30pm:

NSW Police say a 9-year-old boy has been caught committing an act of arson during the total statewide fire ban.

At about 11.35am today, a small grass fire broke out in long grass behind Sullivan Street in Worrigee, Nowra.

Police and fire crews attended and extinguished the blaze. The boy, who was with a group of other children, admitted to lighting the fire with a blowtorch.

Due to the child's age, he was issued a warning under the Young Offenders Act.

Three other men have been caught breaching the ban – two were issued with fines and another was arrested.

In the first incident at 4.10pm yesterday, a 27-year-old man allegedly lit a small campfire at Fowler Reserve, Wallacia, to boil water for cups of tea.

NSW Police and Rural Fire Service attended and the man immediately extinguished the flames.

He was issued with an on-the-spot A$2200 fine.

Then at about 7pm, Rural Fire Service members requested police attend a home in Braidwood Drive, Prestons, following reports a man was burning fence palings in a cylindrical barbecue.

Embers from this fire fell to the ground and ignited palings, causing a secondary blaze.

Both fires were extinguished and the 35-year-old man was also issued with an infringement notice for failing to comply with a total fire ban order.

In the third incident, at about 5am today a 46-year-old man allegedly lit a fire in a small coal barbecue at a home in Danny Road, Lalor Park.

Fire and Rescue NSW attended and extinguished the fire.

NSW Police spoke with the man and arrested him for failing to comply with a total fire ban order and breach of bail.

He is due to appear before Local Court today.

The total state-wide fire ban has been extended until tomorrow. It means no fires out in the open.

General purpose hot works such as welding, grinding or gas cutting or any activity that produces a spark or flame are not to be done in the open.

Eleven fires at emergency level

5.10pm:

We now have an emergency warning for a fire in the Hunter region.

The fire in Cessnock at Wine Country Drive in North Rothbury is spreading quickly and property is under threat.

If you are in the area, it is too late to leave.

That brings us to 11 fires at emergency level.

Smoke from the fires

5pm:

The Queensland Bureau of Meteorology has released satellite images showing the scale of the fires today - and the smoke coming from them.

Another emergency warning added

4.50pm:

The Rumba Dump fire, in the area of Elands, Bobin and Marlee, has breached containment lines and is spreading quickly. It has been upgraded to emergency level.

Meanwhile the Whans Road fire near Llangothlin has been downgraded back to watch and act, so we're still at a total of 10 emergency warnings.

"By my reckoning there have been nine of them in the last hour," reports news.com.au's Sam Clench.

Barnaby Joyce slammed for comment

4.40pm:

Australian Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce has been slammed for his "disgusting" comments after suggesting two people who died in bushfires were "most likely people who voted for the Green party".

Joyce made the comment during an interview on Sky News this morning.

Read more:
Politician Barnaby Joyce's 'disgusting' comment

Barnaby Joyce's comments were quickly slammed on social media. Photo / Getty
Barnaby Joyce's comments were quickly slammed on social media. Photo / Getty

Ten fires at emergency level

4.35pm:

We are up to 10 emergency warnings now, with the addition of the Kian Road fire west of Macksville.

That fire has breached containment lines and is heading towards Macksville. If you are there, or in the area of Talarm and Allgomera Creek, you need to seek shelter.

Conditions will 'only worsen'

4.30pm:

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has warned conditions will "only worsen" as the afternoon wears on.

"This will only worsen throughout the afternoon as the weather conditions continue to deteriorate, and particularly as those strong winds strengthen and become more consistent across the afternoon," Fitzsimmons said.

Wind gusts have already reached 80km/h in parts of the Greater Hunter region, and 70km/h in the Blue Mountains.

"We are getting reports of some properties being impacted and/or destroyed in the Hillville fire, south of Taree," he said.

There has been no word of any injuries to either firefighters or members of the public at this stage.

Thankfully, there also have not been any significant new outbreaks yet, although Fitzsimmons said he had heard early indications of some new fires in the Hunter region.

Nine fires now at emergency level

4.20pm:

The Myall Creek Road fire near Bungawalbin, New Italy and The Gap is the latest to warrant an emergency warning.

If you are in that area, it is too late to leave and you need to seek shelter.

There is also an emergency warning for the Reserves Road fire in the area of Mares Run, southeast of Nowendoc. The same advice applies.

Fires threaten Russell Crowe's properties

4.10pm:

Residents of Nana Glen have been told to leave immediately.

The small town, located 25km northwest of Coffs Harbour, has one particularly famous property owner – Russell Crowe.

The actor bought his first piece of land there all the way back in 1999, and has since purchased a further nine lots in the area, spanning hundreds of hectares.

Crowe hasn't shown any public concern for his own property yet, but he has advised others to stay safe by downloading the RFS app FiresNearMe.

'Leave now ... do not wait'

3.55pm:

Two more fires have been upgraded to emergency level.

The first is the one in Washpool State Forest near Coombadjha. It has breached containment and is now threatening Baryulgil.

If you're in Baryulgil, take shelter in a solid structure.

Residents of Eighteen Mile, Fine Flower, Dumbedgery and Carnham are being advised to monitor conditions and watch out for burning embers.

The second new emergency warning is for the Liberation Trail fire. The advice is different for this one.

"If you are in the area of Nana Glen or Coramba and the surrounding area, leave now towards Coffs Harbour. Do not wait," the RFS says.

In its latest tweet, the RFS has advised:

Where the most dangerous fires are

3.45pm:

Emergency warnings have been issued for five blazes in NSW. They are:

The Gulf Road fire, near Emmaville and Stannum (in the Tenterfield area);

The Whans Road fire, in the Llangothlin (Armidale) area;

The Carrai East fire, west of Kempsey (on the Mid-North Coast);

The Thunderbolts Way fire, near Bretti (in the New England area);

The Hillville Road fire, just south of Taree (on the Mid-North Coast).

Hillfire Rd fire threat grows

3.05pm:

The RFS has expanded its warning for the Hillville Road fire to cover more ground.

It's now spreading quickly towards not only Nabiac, but Failford as well. For those in Failford, it's time to seek shelter.

The fire is also burning in the area of Tinonee, Purfleet and Old Bar. Old Bar Road is now being closed.

Yes, it did rain in Australia yesterday

3pm:

You may have noticed a few headlines around claiming that yesterday was the first day in history in which it did not rain anywhere in Australia.

It turns out that is incorrect. It did rain yesterday – just not in the parts of the country that desperately needed it.

"While it remained dry across most of Australia, during the 24 hours to 9am today rainfall was recorded in a number of locations in both Victoria and Tasmania," the Bureau of Meteorology told our reporter Benedict Brook.

Totals in Victoria were mostly below 3mm. There were some over 10mm in western Tasmania.

The BOM's daily measurements cover the period from 9am-9am. For rainfall to register it must measure at least 0.2mm during those 24 hours.

Fourth emergency warning issued

2.55pm:

The Llangothlin fire has now been escalated to emergency level as well.

"The fire is spreading quickly. Properties are under threat," the RFS says.

"If you are in the area of Llangothlin and the surrounding areas, it is too late to leave. Seek shelter as the fire approaches. Protect yourself from the heat."

11 more fires dangerously 'volatile'

2.40pm:

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons just held another briefing, where he confirmed three fires have been escalated to emergency level.

"The weather conditions, the winds particularly, will only continue to strengthen over the coming hours," Fitzsimmons said.

The advice for people in the immediate path of the three fires is that it's too late to leave and they should seek shelter. Firefighters don't know exactly how many people have stayed with their homes.

"The indications we've got, many people have left early, and have relocated. But clearly there are those who have chosen not to, which is why we're delivering this information now, in the interests of their safety," he said.

"The day is unfolding as we predicted. We knew we had a lot of fire burning in northern NSW. Indeed, just under a million hectares of burnt country was active in northern NSW today.

"We were expecting the hot dry winds to exacerbate fire spread and behaviour, and that's exactly what we're seeing unfold at the moment. Fortunately we have no news to report about new fires. We sincerely hope it stays that way."

Eleven fires remain at watch and act level, and are being closely monitored.

"They are there because we know things are volatile, things are tenuous. It won't take much for those fires to develop and grow and start impacting on property. The next obvious step for those fires is to elevate straight to emergency alert level," Fitzsimmons said.

And in Queensland:

Two more emergency warnings

2.20pm:

The RFS has issued two more emergency warnings.

The first is for the Hillville Rd fire, which is now spreading quickly towards Nabiac. The advice is to seek shelter and protect yourself from the heat of the fire.

The second warning is for the Gulf Road fire in the area of Emmaville and Stannum, which has breached containment lines.

'It's horrific ... Homes are just a little pile of ash'

2.15pm:

News.com's reporter on the ground, James Hall, is at Nambucca Heads, a small town in a valley surrounded by bushland on NSW's mid-north coast.

For residents of the area, the enormity of the threat is sinking in.

Evacuees have started trickling in today, and those numbers are expected to increase dramatically as thick smoke strangles the town and panic sets in.

Residents are blocking their faces to shield from the clouds spewing from nearby blazes as they arrive at the RSL, which has been established as an emergency centre.

"It's getting worse here, it's definitely getting worse," club president Terrie Hyslop told news.com.au as she looked out over homes lining the water, made blurry by the smoke.

"We just need one house to go up and it'll all be gone."

The Nambucca Heads RSL has been inundated with supplies for those who have lost their homes and property, as well as hundreds of meals to feed nearby volunteers battling infernos.

The view from the RSL club, looking over the water, which is increasingly shrouded by smoke. Photo / news.com.au
The view from the RSL club, looking over the water, which is increasingly shrouded by smoke. Photo / news.com.au

Bowraville, 20 kilometres to the west, is on the front line, but as the temperature rises more reports of stranded communities roll in.

Hyslop was told of 60 residents who have been rushed to sanctuary at a nearby showground.

"It's horrific out there," she said.

"When you see grown men cry like a baby you know (how bad it's getting).

"Homes are just a little pile of ash.

"People are dazed because of the enormity of it. It's overwhelming."

100,000 Sydney homes at risk

2pm:

This morning Sky News spoke to Andrew Gissey, the former deputy chief of the Victorian SES who is now at the Risk Frontiers consultancy group.

He revealed just how much danger residents of Sydney could be in.

"If fires do start around Sydney, the Illawarra and the Newcastle area, it's going to be really hard to bring those fires under control," Gissey told Peter Stefanovic.

"Australian homes are just not built for truly catastrophic fire conditions.

"Sydney is a leafy, bush city. It's the reason why we love it so much but it also gives us this bushfire risk.

"Around Sydney alone, there's 100,000 addresses, according to our research at Risk Frontiers, at risk of bushfires."

Gissey echoed the simple advice from firefighting authorities – residents should be decisive and, if necessary, leave their homes.

"Having a foot in both camps is very dangerous. Thinking that you're going to stay, see what it turns out like, whether or not you can defend your home and see how it goes. That's a very dangerous mindset to take into today. If you do get into trouble, it might just be too late," he said.

Meanwhile, the first emergency warning of the day has been issued, for the bushfire in the Nowendoc area on the NSW mid coast.

"The fire is spreading quickly. If you are in the Nowendoc and Mount George area, you are at risk," the NSW RFS says.

"It is too late to leave. Seek shelter as the fire approaches. Protect yourself from the heat of the fire."

'Starting to see an uptick in fire activity'

1.25pm:

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons just delivered another update, saying NSW is "certainly starting to see an uptick in fire activity".

"Up north, we've got a couple of fires particularly that are starting to develop a little more."

He was referring to the Hillville fire just south of Taree, and the Mount Nardi fire near Nimbin.

Wind gusts are starting to exceed 70km/h in some parts of the ranges.

Closer to Sydney, there is a fire in the Hawkesbury area. The communities of House Swamp and Mellong have been advised to evacuate.

That fire could spread further east in the coming hours and start impacting St Albans and Upper Macdonald.

"The reality is, conditions will simply continue to get worse and deteriorate over the coming hours, and particularly into this afternoon, with the combination of the hotter temperatures, the drier atmosphere and the strengthening winds," Fitzsimmons said.

Fire danger in Blue Mountains

1.05pm:

Fire activity is increasing in the area of Wollemi National Park, in the northern Blue Mountains.

Read more:
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"If you are in the area of Mellong, St Albans and Upper MacDonald, and your plan is to leave, leave now to a safer location," the RFS says.

That means heading to a built up area, well away from bushland.

At least one major road in the area has been closed:

And a fire has broken out near Tamworth, in NSW's north west:

Fire prediction maps updated

12.40pm:

The Rural Fire Service has updated its map predicting the path of the major bushfires on the North Coast of NSW.

You can view a more detailed version at this link.

'Very dangerous situation'

12.15pm:

BOM meteorologist Grace Legge was on ABC News a short time ago. She explained the rise in wind strength NSW is currently seeing, as well as the dangerous weather change predicted for this afternoon and evening.

"Unfortunately, we are already starting to see those winds pick up," Legge said.

They're as high as 40km/h in the Tablelands, and around 60km/h in the alpine regions. Those numbers are only going to get higher.

"We're going to see the gusts getting to 60km/h, to 80km/h. We are starting to see damaging winds of 90km/h, more in southern parts and elevated areas," Legge said.

"At the moment it's still on the southern end, it's still in Victoria, but it's going to start moving in the next couple of hours through into NSW.

"It is a very dangerous situation, with these strong winds, that hot, extremely dry air mass moving through. It does mean that any fires will spread quickly and will be very severe. And of course when that wind change goes through, that makes everything more complicated and more dangerous."

A wall of haze and smoke near Sydney as seen from the air this morning. Photo / Supplied
A wall of haze and smoke near Sydney as seen from the air this morning. Photo / Supplied

Legge was asked when the critical southerly change would hit.

"I'm just going to refer to my notes to make sure I get this right, because it is so important," she said.

"We're expecting it to move through the Shoalhaven later this afternoon. Places like Nowra, probably around 5pm. And then moving through Sydney around 7pm to 8pm before continuing up the coast, and getting to places like Taree probably around 11pm to 12am tonight."

The situation is different in Queensland, with NSW bearing "the brunt" of the winds. But that will change tomorrow.

"It won't reach Queensland until tomorrow morning. That means they'll have another day of seeing the severe fire dangers," Legge said.

"It will still be very dangerous there."

High winds to hit Queensland, too

11.58am

Queensland is not facing the same level of danger as NSW today, but that doesn't mean you should be complacent.

The Bureau of Meteorology says dry and windy conditions will increase in the state's southeast this afternoon, and become an even bigger problem tomorrow.

Here's a handy chart breaking down which areas will be most severely affected.

Wind conditions start to worsen

11.50am:

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons just delivered an update on the morning's conditions in NSW.

"In most areas, reasonably calm this morning. However, we have seen an increase in the number of fires reaching watch and act alert level, which is indicative of things changing on the ground," Fitzsimmons said.

"We're seeing some spread in the fires, particularly up in northern NSW. We are keeping a close eye on the conditions.

"We are starting to see an increase in the winds, particularly across the ranges."

There are winds of 30km/h already in the Northern Tablelands, 40km/h in the Central and Southern Tablelands, and as high as 60km/h through the alpine regions.

Those winds are expected to strengthen further from about 10am (NSW time) onwards before the onset of the worst conditions around lunchtime and the early afternoon.

"Now is the time to exercise those decisions to leave, leave early and go to safer locations. Safer towns and villages, or safer places in your local community, such as the shopping centres and so on," Fitzsimmons said.

"For the rest of the day, we really need people to stay alert, stay informed and stay safe."

There isn't any fire activity in the Sydney area yet.