• Three people dead, five missing, and 40 injured
• More than 150 homes destroyed
• 74 fires burning in NSW, 43 uncontained, three at emergency level (one in NSW, two in Qld)
• Identified victims are Vivian Chaplain, 69, and Julie Fletcher, 63
Firefighters worked through the night and into this morning as bushfires continued to rage across northern New South Wales and parts of Queensland.
They were helped by easing conditions, with temperatures cooling, winds dropping and a number of fires that were at previously at emergency level being downgraded.
But that relief is only temporary, reports News.com.au.
Worried fire authorities are now turning their attention to preparing for Tuesday, when several weather factors will combine to spread "very high to severe" fire danger across an even greater part of the country.
Temperatures will rise back into the high thirties, winds will pick up again and a high pressure ridge coming in from the west will bring more dry air.
"We are looking at a much wider area of fire danger," Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Abrar Shabren told news.com.au today.
That wider area could extend as far as the Hunter, the Illawarra and greater Sydney.
Thirty-six fires across NSW are still not under control. This morning Rob Rogers, the Rural Fire Service's Deputy Commissioner, said firefighters' odds of containing those existing blazes before Tuesday were "not very good".
"What we are really going to be focusing on is what's in the path of those existing fires to ensure we can work out what we need to do to try to protect those communities on that day," he said.
"The conditions that we are facing are going to be really dire conditions. Very hot. Really dry. Strong westerly winds.
"Don't expect that there is going to be a fire truck coming to your home if it is threatened, simply because we do not have enough trucks to be able to cover every single possibility. So people need to think carefully about what they're going to do on Tuesday."
Queensland is facing the same danger
"Tuesday for us will run into Wednesday and Thursday," said Mike Wassing, the Acting Commissioner of the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
"We'll see higher winds and dry winds and heightened fire dangers. That will run through into Wednesday for us, also into Thursday.
"It starts in the southeast part of Queensland. We have already got large fires. It will run into central Queensland, again where we had a number of significant fires overnight and yesterday afternoon."
THREE DEAD, TWO VICTIMS IDENTIFIED
Three people have been confirmed dead, with two bodies found near Glen Innes and one near Taree, while five others remain unaccounted for.
Vivian Chaplain, 69, died trying to protect her animals and home at Wytaliba, northwest of Coffs Harbour, and was found with "40-50 per cent burns to her body".
"She was stuck and we couldn't get to her. The loss of her has devastated our family and there was nothing we could do," Ms Chaplain's daughter-in-law Chrystal Harwood told the ABC.
One of Ms Harwood's friends eventually pushed through and found Ms Chaplian unconscious near her shed. He then drove back through dangerous territory to get her to emergency services.
Firefighters performed CPR and first aid for "several hours", according to RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, but it was too late to save her.
The second victim, Julie Fletcher, 63, was discovered at a property in Johns River, north of Taree after packing her car and preparing to escape, according to The Daily Telegraph.
"I got a message from her at 9:30pm on Friday night saying she was putting her things in the car and getting ready to go," Ms Fletcher's friend Diny Khan told the newspaper.
The other victim, a man, was discovered inside a burnt out car yesterday morning at the Kangawalla fire, near Glen Innes in NSW.
The Mayor of Glenn Innes, Carol Sparkes, told Channel 7 her community was "shellshocked".
"We are all coming to terms with the death of our friends and coming to terms with losing all of our belongings and our structures and our homes and our lives. We're going to have to have a big rethink about the future of our community," Ms Sparkes said.
"The flames, walls of flame that attacked us, with the wind behind it, it was terrible. All I can think about at the moment is mountains of black ash with fire coming. It's terrible."
More than 40 people have been injured and 150 homes destroyed.
"We cannot rule out the really great concerns that there could be more fatalities as we get through and identify details across these fire grounds," Mr Fitzsimmons said yesterday.
ONE FIRE STILL AT EMERGENCY LEVEL
One fire remains at emergency level – the one approaching Cooroibah, Ringtail Creek and their surrounding areas in Queensland. Residents are being urged to leave immediately, as it will soon be "too dangerous to drive".
"You should not expect a firefighter at your door. Act now," Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said.
In the early hours of this morning, the Cobraball fire, also in Queensland, was downgraded to watch and act. But it is still moving , and residents in its path are being told to travel towards Yeppoon.
There are still 50 fires burning in Queensland, though thankfully there have been no injuries or loss of life.
A number of fires in NSW have been downgraded, including those near Bills Crossing Crowdy, Liberation Trail, Washpool, Gum Scrub and Mt Nardi.
The Hillville fire was also downgraded at 5am, meaning there are currently no fires at emergency level in NSW.
Conditions should continue to improve across most affected areas throughout the day, with temperatures expected to peak at 25-30 degrees.
"The winds won't be as vigorous as yesterday, but will still be there. Maybe not that widespread, but in certain pockets in the interior of the northern tablelands," Mr Shabren said.
Those winds will "really ease off" in the evening hours.
SURVIVORS DESCRIBE HARROWING ORDEAL
Residents have described the terror they endured as they tried to protect their properties or escape from the fires.
Kim Macdonald told The Daily Telegraph she lay in a creek for three hours, with a dog under each arm and a wet blanket over her face.
"I was completely numb, all I could hear were gas bottles exploding, and I knew my house was gone. It was really bloody scary."
Ms Macdonald lost her home, which she'd spent the last 11 years renovating.
The Australian spoke to a homeowner named Mirek, who suffered burns to his hands and feet while protecting his own property.
He lost many of his belongings, but the house stayed standing.
"I never saw anything like that," he said.
"I saw this massive wall of fire coming towards me with a wind gust that was knocking me off my feet. It was so strong.
"Then you could hear all the banging, with trees exploding. It was like a war."
PREMIER SAYS 'NOT THE TIME' FOR POLITICS
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian are travelling to the state's mid north coast region today to thank emergency service workers and volunteers, visit evacuation centres and talk to residents.
The federal Cabinet has already signed off on the option of calling in the Army reserves to help, should the situation worsen significantly.
"Federal and state governments have already signed off on everything we need to do to make sure people can get access to immediate funds, immediate support and accommodation," Ms Berejiklian told Channel 9 this morning.
She was asked about comments from Greens MP Adam Bandt, who yesterday said the government's climate change policies would lead to more loss of life.
"Is that a discussion we need to have down the track?" Ms Berejiklian was asked.
"Not today. Not tomorrow. Not for the next few weeks. We need to focus on saving lives. We need to focus on supporting our communities who are doing it tough," she said.
"I don't think people appreciate the trauma that people are going through. Often the first couple of days, when I meet someone who has lost everything, they seem resilient. But you know that in the next few days, when the shock wears off and they face reality, that's when we really need to provide our support, and I just ask everybody to put politics aside and just consider the human toll."