Hunter Valley firefighters warn of catastrophic fire danger

CATASTROPHIC WARNING: Firefighters have warned of "catastrophic" fire danger in the Hunter today. Picture: NSW RFS Facebook

CATASTROPHIC WARNING: Firefighters have warned of "catastrophic" fire danger in the Hunter today. Picture: NSW RFS Facebook

Strike teams of firefighters are headed to the Hunter, tasked with protecting the region, as some of the worst fire conditions in history push temperatures into the mid-40s for the third day in a row. 

Teams from Sydney comprised of trucks and senior officers are on stand-by to support local firefighters in Kurri Kurri, Singleton, Rutherford and Newcastle with more on the way.

Yesterday, residents across the region received text messages from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service with a warning that the Hunter’s fire danger rating was “catastrophic”. 

A Maitland firefighter said conditions for today were as bad as Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires, which claimed 173 lives in 2009.

“We have no idea what today will bring, this could be Hell on Earth,” the firefighter said.

“We’re just hoping it’s a nothing day, hoping it’ll just be hot.”

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Maitland’s weather station recorded 44.3 degrees on Saturday afternoon.

The firefighter reiterated the comments by RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, urging people to prepare for the worst.

“We’re prepared, the service is well prepared,” he said.

“[But] he public needs to be aware that if [a fire] starts it will develop so quickly we may not be able to stop it.”

The RFS spent the weekend blanketing social media with information that explained the gravity of the situation. 

“If you are in an area of Catastrophic fire danger, leaving early is your only safe option,” the service posted on Facebook.

“Homes are not designed to withstand fires in these conditions and may not offer safety.”

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said catastrophic fire ratings had been issued only once before in NSW - in 2013 - since national standardised ratings were introduced in 2009.

"To put it simply [the conditions] are off the old scale," he said. "It is without precedent in NSW". 

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