The remains of a house destroyed by bushfire is seen outside of Glenreagh, near Coffs Harbour (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has confessed to being "hugely relieved" after no lives were lost amid a day of catastrophic fire danger in the state.
"Whilst we're not over the threat yet, we are certainly through what was yesterday catastrophic weather conditions..."— Studio 10 (@Studio10au) November 12, 2019
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian praises emergency services for their efforts to contain the #NSWFires. #NSWBushfires pic.twitter.com/T2uq7iQ0NN
However the NSW Rural Fire Service have confirmed at least 50 homes were damaged or destroyed on Tuesday, with RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons admitting firefighters were "deflated" by the losses.
#NSWFires update from @NSWRFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons:— Studio 10 (@Studio10au) November 12, 2019
- 17 fires at the watch & act level
- another 50 homes damaged or destroyed
- no life-threatening injuries & no one unaccounted for
- fires will not be all contained for many weeks
- "what we need is rain" pic.twitter.com/n3Z57PS4KI
A strong southerly front on Tuesday caused worsening conditions for firefighters battling "volatile" conditions in NSW, with high winds sparking 300 new fire fronts and destroying more properties.
"A lot of detailed work, a lot of building impact assessment teams will be getting out in and around these fire grounds, in these burnt-out areas, when it is safe to do so, trying to take stock of exactly what has been lost, where it's been lost," Mr Fitzsimmons told reporters on Wednesday.
"We will update people not just on what's been lost, but, most importantly, critically importantly, for communities, the firefighters themselves, who feel so deflated, who feel such sadness and despair at seeing so much loss."
Strong winds have pushed the fire at Hillville, in northern NSW near Taree, in a northwesterly direction along with blazes in other regions, as fires destroyed hundreds of thousands of hectares of bush.
No lives were lost on Tuesday, authorities say, and no one is missing. However three people have died since the fires ramped up on Friday and more than 300 homes have been destroyed since that time.
At one point, 16 fires were simultaneously at "emergency" level as Greater Sydney, Greater Hunter and Illawarra-Shoalhaven had the "catastrophic" rating.
"I have to confess to being hugely relieved this morning that yesterday our amazing volunteers and emergency service personnel withstood the catastrophic conditions and did manage to save life and property," Ms Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.
NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said the result was "a dividend paid by the great preparation" of the NSW Rural Fire Service.
"You must've arrived from Mars in a bubble if you didn't know yesterday that the state was in severe danger."— Studio 10 (@Studio10au) November 12, 2019
Emergency Services Minister David Elliott says he's disappointed four people were charged with breaching the total fire ban order in NSW. #NSWFires #NSWBushfires pic.twitter.com/IjbqMzi4OY
NSW remains in a state of emergency, with high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity causing treacherous conditions for some 3000 firefighters battling blazes. A statewide total fire ban is in place.
While conditions will ease slightly tonight, a Total Fire Ban will remain in place for tomorrow as fire crews work to contain the large number of active fires burning across NSW. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/6kPNnbbx1U— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) November 12, 2019
Fortunately heavy smoke on Tuesday morning served as an "insulation blanket" to the strong winds moving across the Northern Tablelands so several fires did not flare up as much as feared, Mr Fitzsimmons said.
But he warned the challenge ahead remained immense.
There are currently 73 fires burning across NSW, 50 of which are uncontained.
No fires as at 9am on Wednesday were at "emergency" alert level after the 150,000 hectare Liberation Trail fire near Coffs Harbour was downgraded to "watch and act" level, alongside 16 other fires.
About 400 trucks were out in the field, along with 80 aircraft.
"We were fortunate the catastrophic ranges were not sustained for the long durations that were originally expected," Mr Fitzsimmons said.
"But the amount of dense smoke that effectively blanketed northeastern NSW served as an insulation layer, served as a buffer."
While conditions are expected to ease on Wednesday, Mr Fitzsimmons said a forecast for severe weather into the weekend and another burst of hot air next week means "we simply aren't going to get the upper hand on all of these fires".
The armed forces are still standing by to provide support, including for search and rescue operations and other logistical duties.
Some 600 schools were closed although most are expected to reopen, apart from about 140 state schools, mainly in the north.
© AAP 2019