Three firefighters were hospitalised as crews desperately battled a spate of blazes across the Lower Hunter during "catastrophic" conditions on Tuesday afternoon.
Lower Hunter Rural Fire Service public liaison officer Terry Burns said two of the firefighters were taken to Maitland Hospital in a stable condition. One had fallen and suffered a head injury while the other had experienced smoke inhalation.
The third also suffered smoke inhalation and was transported to Cessnock Hospital in a stable condition, while a fourth firefighter was also treated at the scene of a fire in Greta after inhaling smoke but did not require hospitalisation.
More than 100 firefighters on more than 50 trucks, including 15 called up from Victoria, responded to fires at North Rothbury and Greta that moved rapidly in hot, blustery conditions. A fire at Whittingham near Singleton also shut the New England Highway for part of the afternoon.
No fires were at emergency level when The Mercury went to press on Tuesday, but crews were anxious about a southerly wind change expected to come through in the evening.
The RFS reported that at least three homes were damaged in the fire at North Rothbury, but Mr Burns said much more was saved thanks to the efforts of brave firefighters.
"Crews have definitely put up a fight to protect life and property," he said. "They won't give up until it's over.
"Catastrophic is as bad as it gets. These fires were running hard and fast."
Mr Burns said crews had not had a chance to consider the rest of the week, but said they would remain on alert with high temperatures expected.
"There's no let up - no rain forecast," he said. "We're hoping to get the upper hand now to try and avoid dramas later on."
The fire danger rating is thankfully three levels lower than catastrophic for Wednesday, but is still set at "very high". Greta and Branxton Public Schools and Rosary Park Primary School will remain closed on Wednesday, as will Kurri Kurri TAFE.
A State of Emergency remains in place for the rest of the week as declared by Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Monday.
Dozens of schools in bushfire-prone areas were shut on Tuesday as crews prepared for the highest level of bushfire danger.