Fire Danger Rating, News

Total fire ban Saturday as another catastrophic fire danger issued for Illawarra

catastrophic fire rating 2

WITH the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) declaring dangerous fire conditions for tomorrow (Saturday December 21) Premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced a State of Emergency.

A catastrophic fire rating has been issued for the Illawarra for Saturday as severe to extreme heat wave conditions are expected to peak with the mercury set to exceed 40 degrees in many parts of the state. In addition to this, a trough will move through NSW. Hot and gusty westerly winds ahead of the trough will drive dangerous fire conditions.

The following message details important, whole-of-government information for the people of NSW.


  • Reconsider your travel plans for tomorrow.
  • Delay all non-essential travel
  • If you are in an area threatened by fire and you plan to leave – leave early.
  • Tomorrow will be extremely hot and windy creating dangerous conditions. If you don’t need to be out, you should stay at home.

Due to the proximity of current bushfires to main roads and highways, it is anticipated that many of these roads will close tomorrow. It is expected that this will occur on the Princess Highway near Sussex Inlet as well as other sections of the Princess highway near the Currowan fire; the Hume Highway near Narellan, the Great Western Highway near the Blue Mountains and possibly the F1 near the Central Coast as well as other northern sections of the F1 where fire activity is already occurring.

If you require emergency assistance call 000.

Rural Fire Service:

Catastrophic is the highest level of bush fire danger. Homes are not designed to withstand a fire under these conditions.

If a fire starts and takes hold during Catastrophic fire danger conditions, lives and homes will be at risk.

  • Advice for people in areas of Catastrophic fire danger include:
  • Avoid bush fire prone areas. A safer area may be a large town or city, shopping centres or facilities well away from bushland areas.
  • If you are unable to leave, identify a safe location which may be nearby. This may include a Neighbourhood Safer Place.
  • There are a number of fires already burning in areas that are forecast to experience catastrophic conditions. Tomorrow these fires will grow rapidly, be unpredictable, spot large distances, and impact on lives and property with little notice.
  • Fires burning under these conditions can be deadly.

Large areas of the state are also forecast to experience Severe and Extreme fire danger. This includes the Hunter and Central Ranges areas.

Currently there is more than 100 fires burning across NSW of which more than half are yet to be contained. These fires will not be contained in time and will threaten lives and properties.

A state-wide total fire ban remains in place until at least midnight Saturday 21 December 2019.


Motorists should delay all non-essential travel.

Many roads continue to be impacted by fire and major roads may be closed suddenly and without warning:

  • Reconsider your travel plans,

If you need to travel

  • Ensure you have water, food, supplies and a full tank of fuel.
  • Ensure your mobile phone is fully charged before you set out.
  • Check that your route is clear to travel on, and monitor for changes.
  • Check that your destination is open.

If you’re already travelling when a bush fire starts, follow the directions of emergency services personnel.

Due to fire activity, both main and local roads may close without warning. For the latest information on road closures, check or download the Live Traffic NSW app or call 132 701.

For the latest information on public transport, check or download a transport app or call 131 500.

State Emergency Service

Strong winds may impact NSW from Thursday across the weekend. Take the time now to prepare your home or property and be aware of weather conditions:

  • Trim trees and branches that could potentially fall on your home or property
  • Park your car undercover
  • Tie down loose items and backyard furniture
  • Follow NSW SES on social media and visit the NSW SES website for regular updates
  • For emergency help in floods and storms call the NSW SES on 132 500, or for life-threatening emergencies call 000.

NSW Health

People with any respiratory issues or who are particularly vulnerable can be the first to feel the effects of smoke which may aggravate their existing condition. Even healthy adults and children can be impacted by the effects of heavy smoke which can result in lung irritation.

These conditions can have a serious impact on your health and it is important to remember that our bodies have to work extra hard to cope or cool down. Ensure you stay hydrated and pay particular attention to any symptoms (dizziness, headaches, racing pulse or nausea) of heat related illness.

If you are preparing to leave, make sure you pack your medications, including those in the fridge.

Smoke can cause health problems, particularly for people with pre-existing lung and heart conditions like asthma, emphysema, angina or heart failure.

Avoid outdoor physical activity if it’s smoky, particularly if you have a pre-existing condition like asthma.

People with asthma should follow their asthma management plans.

If you have asthma, make sure you keep your reliever medication close to hand.

If your reliever medication has run out or is passed its use-by date, you can buy a new one from the pharmacy without a prescription.

You can reduce exposure to smoke by staying indoors with the doors and windows shut. Air conditioning can help to filter out smoke that gets into your house.

The following link contains a fact sheet with information about what to do if fire retardants have been used on your property and may have affected your private drinking water supply:

NSW Ambulance:

Be aware of potential hazards such as embers, falling debris, damage to surroundings and reduced visibility which can cause injury.

Paramedics are urging people in fire affected areas to wear any form of eyewear and loose clothing to cover your skin to assist in reducing any incidental injury.

NSW Ambulance recommends if anyone sustains any form of burn they should cool the affected area immediately with water – ideally running water – for a minimum of 20 minutes (for eyes ensure you flush the eye) and seek medical attention.

It is important that people really take care of themselves. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, make sure you have all your medications with you and readily available at all times.

People with any respiratory issues, or who are particularly vulnerable, can be the first to feel the effects of smoke which may aggravate their existing condition. Even healthy adults and children can be impacted by the effects of heavy smoke which can result in lung irritation.

These conditions can have a serious impact on your health and it is important to remember that our bodies have to work extra hard to cope or cool down. Ensure you stay hydrated and pay particular attention to any symptoms (dizziness, headaches, racing pulse or nausea) of heat related illness.

NSW Ambulance is always here to help – never be afraid to call Triple Zero.

Evacuation centres:

There are evacuation centres open in some areas, however your best choice is to relocate to the homes of family or friends in an area not under threat of bushfire.

Relocation from an area under threat of fire may take longer than a few hours; ensure you take essential living items with you, including medication and support items.

Don’t forget your pets! Make arrangements for their relocation now. Domestic pets may be taken to evacuation centres; there are other facilities available for larger animals.

The most up to date information regarding Evacuation Centres (for people and animals) can be found at:

Agriculture & Animal Services:

Include your animals in your bush fire plan.

If you can, take your animals with you. Assistance from Agriculture and Animal Services Functional Area (AASFA) is available if you attend an evacuation centre.

For those impacted and seeking assistance for emergency fodder, emergency water (for immediate animal welfare cases only) or animal assessment (resulting from the fires) please contact the AASFA Hotline on 1800 814 647.


Keep at least 8 metres away from fallen power lines or objects that may be energised, such as fences.

Report fallen power lines to either Ausgrid (131 388), Endeavour Energy (131 003), Essential Energy (132 080) or Evoenergy (131 093) as shown on your power bill.

National Parks and Wildlife:

A full list of the closures is available at

Forestry Corporation NSW:

A full list of the closures is available at


Whilst the land is the most impacted, we are encouraging general public to also stay off the water.

Given the catastrophic conditions across the state, NSW Maritime encourage boaters to stay off the water in the coming days until conditions improve. The fires are extremely unpredictable. So please take all the necessary precautions and put safety first.

Other Information

  • Stay up to date on bush fires in your area by checking the NSW RFS website, listening to your local radio station, or by calling the NSW RFS Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737.
  • People with respiratory conditions who are affected by bush fire smoke should activate their health management plan and seek medical advice if necessary. Take precautions, such as staying indoors and closing windows.
  • For information on road closures, check Live Traffic NSW. Roads may be closed without warning.
  • Monitor weather conditions and weather warnings at Bureau of Meteorology.

A total fire ban has been issued for the whole of the state of NSW until midnight Saturday 21 December 2019.

If you need emergency assistance call Triple Zero (000).

Anyone who sees suspicious or illegal behaviour is urged to contact police via Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report crime via NSW Police social media pages.

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About Mick Roberts

A journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of Australian pubs and associated industries for over 30 years. He is working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick managed several community newspapers. He has been editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), the Sydney city newspaper, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW.


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