Flashback to hell as flames claim Sydney home
A bushfire destroyed one grand home in Western Sydney and threatened many more as Sunday's strong winds and fierce heat brought a troubling reminder of last year's horror fire season.
Tinderbox conditions, temperatures in the 40s and "furnace-like" 100km/h winds whipped up almost 90 fires across NSW, creating a "difficult day" for fire crews as flames threatened homes in Northmead, Faulconbridge and Kenthurst in Sydney.
In Northmead, a watch- and-act level bushfire broke out in a valley and barrelled towards homes on Whitehaven Rd just before 1pm, fanned by the hot gales.
Residents rang triple-zero when they saw flames behind their properties and occupants from at least 20 homes were forced to flee.
Twins Erica and Peter Campbell-Rogers, 16, were doing a school chemistry assignment when the fire approached their Northmead house. "I looked out the window and could see smoke," Erica said.
They alerted their parents and grabbed garden hoses to defend not just their home but also neighbouring properties from embers which had started raining down.
They helped extinguish embers on neighbouring properties, with temperatures getting so hot at one point the plastic print on Erica's T-shirt melted away.
Quick thinking Peter jumped on a trampoline in a bid to see where the embers had fallen.
"I was running between houses and jumping over back fences, trying to see all the spot fires in gutters," he said.
Rural Fire Service and Fire and Rescue NSW crews were rushed to the scene, where a grand brick manor became engulfed by flames just after 2pm as strong winds blew fire embers onto the property.
"We found quite an advanced fire with that wind which was blowing a gale," NSW RFS Acting Superintendent Scott Dobson said.
Firefighters, including an aerial waterbombing helicopter, worked for hours to douse flames, but the manor could not be saved.
As the ferocious fire was brought under control at about 4pm, crews were rushed to a blaze in Faulconbridge in the Blue Mountains as it scorched land near several homes.
Residents were told to be on alert as "erratic" winds and a southerly change blew across the coast.
In Kenthurst, the record heat brought a fast-moving fire to watch and act level before firefighters finally gained the upper hand as a cool change hit. The summer swelter also caused problems closer to Sydney, with a "significant" grass fire breaking out in Bicentennial Park in Homebush.
Residents in nearby apartments took to social media with images of smoke billowing into the sky and stunned commuters queued across the intersection on Australia Ave metres from flames.
NSW Fire and Rescue crews battled the blaze for almost two hours, struggling to contain it as fire spread through drains.
The elevated fire danger will continue this week with a total fire ban in place today for the Northern Slopes and North Western areas.
HOT RECORD TUMBLES
It is official - Sydney has sweltered through its hottest November night on record.
Temperatures dropped only slightly after the sun went down with the mercury dipping to just 25.3C at 1.09am, the warmest November night since records began.
The warm air showed no sign of letting up this morning with the mercury hitting 35.9C in Bankstown and 34.9C at Sydney Airport by 9.40am this morning.
If the temperature does surge past 40C today, it will be the first time in 80 years that Sydney has had two consecutive days of 40C weather in November.
Duty forecaster Helen Kirkup said high temperatures this morning signalled that Sydney was on track to go past the 40C mark again today.
"With the southerly not coming through until 3pm, we have quite some hours to warm up," she said.
"We currently have temperatures in the northwest - we already 38C out in Bourke - the reason that is relevant is the air trajectory is coming from the inland so it is just going to bring this increasingly warm air across."
Saskia Brown took her daughter Chloe down for a dip at 7am on Sunday morning to Balmoral.
"We slept with the airconditioning on all night last night for the first time," she said.
"She woke up early and decided to come with me for a swim because it would be too hot later in the day."
Meanwhile police have urged people not to go bushwalking after a woman fell during a trek and had to be rescued in the midday sun near Goulburn.
The 32-year-old woman fell while walking along a trail at Bungonia National Park and became wedged between two boulders.
Two senior police constables had to carry the woman out of the park and she was then flown to Canberra Base Hospital.
The two constables found another two women nearby who went bushwalking and were suffering heat exhaustion.
"The senior constables also began suffering heat exhaustion and were taken to Goulburn Base Hospital for treatment for dehydration," a NSW Police statement said.
A southerly change is expected to sweep through Sydney about 3pm bringing with it gusty winds and a chance of rain and a possible thunderstorm.
But before there is any relief from the heat, demand on the electricity network is continuing to surge.
More than 1000 homes are without power across Sydney.
Another 14,000 households around NSW are also without electricity in, including areas in the Blue Mountains, the south coast and the Southern Highlands.
A combination of the increased demand on the electricity network caused by heat, and gusty conditions which has brought tree branches down across power lines are responsible for residents losing power, an Ausgrid spokeswoman said.
About 9.35am about 1400 homes in Villawood, Bass Hill, Georges Hall, Lansdowne, Chester Hill lost power.
Yesterday 14,000 Sydney homes lost power at some stage but electricity was all restored last night.
Reports of numerous tree branches across power lines in Sydney's north this morning is also expected to bring more outages.
The network is expected to come under more stress as more people pump up their airconditioning as temperatures continue to climb until about 3pm.
Outside Sydney, gusty winds brought power lines down overnight, cutting off electricity to about 14,000 customers in the Blue Mountains, the south coast and the Southern Highlands, an Endeavour Energy spokeswoman said.
The Australian Energy Market Operator - which manages the wholesale supply of electricity to energy companies who provide it to households - issued a notice shortly after 9am saying between 3.30pm and 5.30pm forecast capacity reserve requirement would be 1360 megawatts, exceeding the capacity reserve available.
But an AEMO spokesman said there would be no impact to power system security or reliability.
"We will continue to monitor reserve levels to maintain adequate supply," he said.
The price power companies like Ausgrid pay for wholesale electricity in NSW is expected to surge from $38.20 megawatt hour (MPh) to $1067 MWh at 4.30pm today.
Originally published as Flashback to hell as flames claim Sydney home