4.30pm: Stay in touch with the Rural Fire Service Twitter feed at @NSWRFS
Check the RFS website at http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/ for updated information.
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3.56pm: The first figure for bushfire damage has been put at more than $30 million but will climb rapidly, the Insurance Council of Australia said.
Council members had received 550 claims by Friday afternoon, said the council's general manager of communication, Campbell Fuller.
"We expect this will climb and climb sharply," he said.
The council has declared a catastrophe for bushfire-affected regions and established a taskforce to escalate the industry's response.
Mr Fuller advised policy holders to lodge claims as soon as possible and said insurers would send teams to recovery centres to assis
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2.15pm: There are now 250 firefighters attending to the Springwood fire, which has flared up around Chapman Parade and burning near the Springwood High School which may come under ember attack later today.
Students at the school are now, again, being evacuated and taken to Faulconbridge Public School.
It remains at an emergency warning level. The Springwood fire has now burnt through 2000 hectares in the last 24 hours. The Rural Fire Service is telling residents at Springwood, Mt Riverview, Winmalee and Faulconbridge to monitor conditions.
11:12am: The Salvation Army is calling for financial donations to its Bushfire Relief Appeal, Kim Arlington reports.
The organisation's communications director, Major Peter Sutcliffe, said financial donations allowed the Salvos to supply people directly with what they needed.
"It also allows us to spend in those communities, and get those communities back up and running more quickly," he said.
"Long after everyone else has left these areas, we're going to be there. Financial support will help us be able to continue that service and be available for people in need."
Donations of clothing and food at this point could cost the Salvos money in storage and transport costs, and were often difficult to distribute in fire-affected areas.
Salvation Army volunteers are also providing emotional support to residents as they are allowed back into devastated neighbourhoods.
"People go and suddenly find that what they had yesterday is no longer there, except for a pile of ash and rubble," Major Sutcliffe said.
"As they go back into a place that that's been totally devastated, there's going to be a lot of emotions. They'll need someone to lean on and be a support."
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10:32am: Labor senator and long time Blue Mountains resident Doug Cameron has raised concerns some residents did not heed emergency warnings ahead of Thursday’s firestorm.
Senator Cameron has praised the efforts of emergency services in fighting the blaze and helping the local community.
‘‘My big concern is that people were ignoring some of the emergency texts that we were getting,’’ Senator Cameron said.
‘‘I was actually trying to convince people to move out. So that’s not a good sign.’’
10:26am: RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has broken down while addressing the media about of the efforts of his volunteers.
"We can only be proud of what has happened in the last 24 hours," Mr Fitzsimmons said at a briefing at RFS Headquarters at Lidcombe in Sydney's west.
He has visited the two firefighters in hospital who were injured while trying to contain blazes on Thursday.
"One of them was cranky with himself that he wasn't back on the line looking after his troops and looking to make a difference," Mr Fitzsimmons said.
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10:17am: Emma Partridge reports from Springwood that residents estimate at least 43 homes have been lost in Thursday's unforgiving blaze.
Sue Dunlop was one of the Buena Vista Street residents who lost her home. She and her husband Phil stayed to protect their home and birds with a garden hose.
"A car explosion blew our windows out and that's when we knew we'd lost the house," Mrs Dunlop said.
As trees and scrub in her backyard continued to burn on Friday, Mrs Dunlop looked at the remains of her house and said there was nothing more she could have done.
"We stayed throughout the whole fire. You fight for your home. We are too old to be starting again."
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10.25am: Endeavour Energy says emergency crews are on standby to start restoring and rebuilding the electricity supply network in the Blue Mountains as soon as they are given access by emergency services.
An estimated1250 Endeavour customers are without power this morning – not just in the hard-hit areas of Springwood, Yellow Rock and Winmalee.
"Our crews have been working with the Rural Fire Service to make the area safe for emergency service workers but cannot start repairs and restorations until they have been given the all-clear by authorities," a spokesman for Endeavour said.
"The rebuilding is expected to be lengthy because of the extensive damage to electricity infrastructure, and residents are encouraged to make alternative accommodation arrangements if possible.
"At this stage, it is impossible to predict how long it may take to get the power back on as our crews have not yet had access to allow them to properly assess the damage. It will happen as safely and quickly as possible.
"All up, around 1250 Endeavour Energy customers are without power this morning – not just in the hard-hit areas of Springwood, Yellow Rock and Winmalee, but also in parts of the Southern Highlands, and also on the outskirts of Lithgow, around Clarence.
"Some customers around Wisemans Ferry and Cattai are also without power but our crews are now on the ground there, making repairs.
"Electricity can be dangerous – stay well clear of fallen power lines and phone us on 131 003 to report lines down or other dangerous situations.
Visit www.endeavourenergy.com.au or follow the company on Twitter @endeavourenergy for more information.
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9am: Police are asking residents and onlookers to stay away from the fire damaged areas at the Blue Mountains, Lithgow, Lake Macquarie and Wingecarribee Shire.
There are live wires, fallen trees and hazardous materials within these areas, making it unsafe for people.
Police will have measures in place to protect resident’s property.
Officers from the NSW Rural Fire Service, Fire & Rescue NSW and NSW Police Force will be conducting an impact assessment of the affected area, to assess the extent of the damage on Friday.
Police are asking people to be patient.
Residents will be advised as soon as possible when they can return to their properties.
Deputy State Emergency Operations Controller, Assistant Commissioner Alan Clarke said residents will be advised when it is safe to return to their properties.
“We will be working with Fire and Rescue NSW and the Rural Fire Service to assess the damaged areas.
“This is understandably a distressing time for people; however, it is really important for people to stay away until the area has been deemed safe.
“We will ensure that residents are kept up-to-date with what is occurring and as soon as it is deemed safe for them to return to their properties, they will be told,” said Assistant Commissioner Clarke.
6.29pm: According to the Rural Fire Service website, a "fast-moving bush fire is burning in dangerous conditions in the areas around Springwood, Winmalee, Yellow Rock, Mt Riverview and Emu Heights". The fire has jumped the Nepean River and is burning in Castlereagh. Students from St Columba's Springwood, St Thomas Aquinas Primary and Ellison Primary are safe and accounted for. With multiple fires in the area, the RFS is asking people to please postpone non-essential travel to keep the roads clear for firefighters. They have also asked residents in the Springwood, Yellow Rock, Winmalee, Emu Heights, Mt Riverview and Castlereagh areas to take shelter and protect themselves from the radiant heat. An emergency alert telephone warning message has been sent to residents in Winmalee.
5.25pm: An Eastern Creek employee said her husband, who started work at 4.30pm today, told her ‘‘the M4 was closed at one stage" due to the fires.
5.15pm: A Penrith Police spokesman said they had "multiple crews out there from multiple local area commands" in reference to the fire in Castlereagh. ‘‘The job came in about 3.55pm," he said.
5:09pm: Glenorie Fire Brigade posted on its Facebook page 20 minutes ago that the fire in Cattai Ridge has been contained, adding that the RFS website is "struggling with capacity".
5:08pm: As of two minutes ago, the Rural Fire Service sent an emergency alert telephone message to all residents in the Blue Mountains advising of multiple fires and to only travel if essential.
4.55pm: Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons: "If we get through with less than 100 homes destroyed today, we have been lucky".
Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers says there will likely be "dozens of injuries" to the hundreds of RFS volunteers out battling fires. He says he already knows of one firefighter who has been injured.
"Right now we need to focus on protecting life and property for the rest of the day," he told ABC Radio.
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4.50pm: Update from the Rural Fire Service: The bush fire is moving fast in the areas around Springwood, Winmalee, Yellow Rock, Mt Riverview and Emu Heights.
It is understood the fire has jumped the Nepean River and is burning in Castlereagh (Penrith area).
All roads around St Columba's Springwood are closed. Students are safe and sheltering in the school hall. Students from St Thomas Aquinas Primary students have been evacuated to Winmalee Shopping Centre.
With multiple fires in the area, please postpone non-essential travel to keep the roads clear for firefighters.
Advice: Residents in the Springwood, Yellow Rock, Winmalee, Emu Heights, Mt Riverview and Castlereagh areas should take shelter and protect themselves from the radiant heat.
Follow your Bush Fire Survival Plan. If you don't have a plan, ensure you know what you will do if the fire threatens where you are.
Take advice from firefighters in the area.Other information
• If your life is at risk, call Triple Zero (000) immediately.
• Continue to stay up to date with the bush fire situation by checking http://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/, listening to your local radio station or by calling the NSW RFS Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737.
• If you live in the area but are away from home, it may not be safe to return to your property.
• For information on road closures, check http://www.livetraffic.rta.nsw.gov.au/.
• Roads may be closed without warning.The next update on this fire will be issued by 4.30pm or if the situation changes.
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Asked about the fires in Glenorie, Glenorie Rural Fire Brigade deputy captain Adam Davenport said "it’s okay at the moment".
‘‘We’ve got a fire down in The Hillside area, near Hidden Valley Road," he said.
‘‘There’s a sufficient amount of vehicles down there.
‘‘We’ve sent down a crew of four and there are another eight of us at the station on stand-by."
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A wind change on the fire ground at Balmoral in the Southern Highlands has now pushed the blaze towards the township of Bargo.
An emergeny warning is already in place for that fire and residents in Bargo are being told to shelter in place as the fire approaches.
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As of 4:15pm, there are six emergency warnings issued for fires burning across NSW with fears homes have been lost at multiple fire grounds.
There are concerns more homes will be lost at Springwood over the next couple of hours, with the fire jumping the Nepean River and now burning near Castlereagh near Penrith. Roads have been closed around St Columbia's High School at Springwood and students are sheltering in the school hall.
Students from St Thomas Aquinas primary school have been evacuated to Winmalee.
Further east, a fire has breached containment lines at Heatherbrae, north of Newcastle.
The blaze has closed the Pacific Highway. The RFS advises properties around Tomago Road, Cabbage Tree Road, Barrie Close and Williamtown Drive may be under threat.
The fire at Quin’s Lane in South Nowra is burning ‘‘extremely hard’’, Mr Rogers said.
An emergency warning has also been issued for a grass fire burning around St James Road and St Davids Road at Varroville, near Camden, west of Sydney
Residents in the Castle Rock area and Richlands Road west of Muswellbrook were being told to prepare for fire.
Premier Barry O’Farrell left state parliament to join the effort at RFS headquarters.
‘‘There are parts of the state where currently residents are battling the uncertainty of the outbreak of these fires and our hearts and our thoughts are with them,’’ he told Parliament.
Statewide 595 firefighters were battling 78 bush and grass fires, 31 of them uncontained.
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The NSW Rural Fire Service website is down.
The are still updating their Twitter account at @NSWRFS
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A number of homes have been destroyed by bushfires at Springwood and Winmalee in the Blue Mountains, the Rural Fire Service fears.
RFS spokesman Anthony Clark says the fire is burning very quickly there and there was potential to lose more homes over Thursday afternoon.
■Green scrub smoke sighting, 12km north-east of Bilpin, 3km east of Mountain Lagoon; a bush fire is listed as ‘‘under control’’ on the RFS website as of 4pm;
■92 Webbs Creek Road, Webbs Creek; a bush fire is ‘‘under control’’ as of 3.50pm;
■185 McKinnons Road in The Hawkesbury; a grass fire is ‘‘under control’’ as of 2.11pm;
■25 Redbank Road in The Hawkesbury; a scrub/grass fire is ‘‘under control’’ as 2.05pm;
■Grey Gum Terrace, Northmead; a grass fire is ‘‘under control’’ as of 3.25pm;
■Old Castlereagh Road, Castlereagh; a grass fire is ‘‘out of control’’ as of 3.40pm;
■122 Cattai Ridge Road, Glenorie; a grass fire is ‘‘out of control’’ as of 3.55pm;
■194 Hidden Valley Lane, Glenorie; a bush fire is ‘‘being controlled’’ as of 3.50pm;
■Old Northern Road, Wisemans Ferry; a bush fire is ‘‘under control’’ as of 11.45am;
■Withers Road, Rouse Hill; a pile burn is ‘‘under control’’ as of noon;
■Prospect Reservoir, Eastern Creek; a grass fire is ‘‘out of control’’ as of 2.58pm.
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NSW Emergency Services Minister Mike Gallacher says the bushfire situation across the state this afternoon is "very tough going indeed".
He says there are numerous reports of substanial property loss around Springwood and that fire has now jumped the Nepean River and is burning in the Penrith area.
"You only need to look out into the sky and see the bloom and ash that is hanging over Sydney," he told ABC. "That's coming from the fires burning in the Blue Mountains."
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More to come . . .