Extreme fire danger on the Far South Coast has prompted a total fire ban for the region.
As of Tuesday (September 19) the total fire ban covers the Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Shire council areas.
Under a total fire ban, fires out in the open are not allowed.
Activities which can potentially cause a fire or throw sparks, including (but not limited to) welding, grinding or gas cutting, are also prohibited.
Heatwave temperatures and strong north-westerly winds have combined to create the fire conditions; fire crews across several districts are on alert.
NSW Rural Fire service spokesperson Greg Allan told ACM that everyone in the region should be taking precautions and remaining vigilant.
"There is a total fire ban on the far south coast due to the extreme fire danger rating," he said.
"We don't want to see any new fires in the landscape.
"So if you see a new fire with no trucks or firefighters, we want people to call 000 straight away.
"Let us know where those fires are, so we can response and limit the spread of those fires before they get destructive, or impact properties, or indeed lives."
Schools closed on the far south coast
More than 20 schools across the Bega Valley and Eurobodalla have closed for the day, in light of the extreme fire danger.
The schools updated families by email and social media overnight.
"The NSW Rural Fire Service have advised the department that an extreme fire danger rating will be in place tomorrow (September 19) for [the] Far South Coast..." Broulee Public School's relieving principal Rachel Dunne shared in a post to social media.
"To ensure the safety of students and staff, a decision has been made that our school will not be operating on Tuesday 19 September 2023..."
A similar post shared by the Narooma High School warns students and parents that the school will be "non-operational" on Tuesday, September 19 "due to advice from the RFS and Department of Education".
Looking further north...
In the Shoalhaven, a high fire danger rating is in place.
While there is no total fire ban, all fire permits in the region have been suspended until Friday (September 22).
RFS Shoalhaven superintendent Matthew Reeves said the suspension had been put in place as a precaution.
"Last Friday (September 17), when we looked ahead at the forecast, we knew we were forecast to have a high fire danger on Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday, "he said.
"With the cumulative risk on those days, even permits which might have been undertaken on Sunday and Monday would have presented an unacceptable risk, given the forecast conditions locally."
Provided the region is not in high fire danger on Friday, all local fire permits will be active once more.
As the region also faces heatwave temperatures and windy conditions, the RFS is focusing on key areas which have significant risk.
Superintendent Reeves said coastal areas of the northern Shoalhaven are in the RFS' sights during the high fire danger period.
"We have increased our operational preparedness in and around the Bay and Basin, Woolamia, Falls Creek, Callala Bay, and most of the area east of Princes Hwy, through to Shoalhaven Heads," he said.
"The area we have identified hasn't burned since 2001, so this year it is our highest risk because of the accumulated fuel load."
The RFS also has extra eyes on two recent fire zones: a bushfire which burned at Upper Kangaroo Valley on Monday (September 18), and the site of a previous hazard reduction burn at Wreck Bay late last week.
"Because it [the hazard reduction burn] was around 50 hectares, it can take a little longer to burn out in the middle and there might be some residual burning," Superintendent Reeves said.
"We continue to patrol that each day to make sure there's no issues."
Both Mr Allan and Superintendent Reeves reiterated the importance of making a bushfire survival plan, as the state enters bushfire season.
Residents and visitors alike are encouraged to make a survival plan, which outlines what they will do and where they will go, should a bushfire spark nearby.
The RFS advises everyone to stay up to date on fires in the area, using the Hazards Near Me app.
For 24/7 bushfire survival advice, the Rural Fire Service has resources online.
Visit www.myfireplan.com.au for more.
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