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'The worst is still ahead.' NSW faces new fire threat as winds change, & more in News in 5.

With AAP.

1. ‘The worst is still ahead.’ NSW faces new fire threat as winds shift.

A strong southerly front overnight has caused worsening conditions for firefighters battling “volatile” conditions in NSW, with high winds sparking 300 new fire fronts and destroying more properties.

Strong winds have pushed the fire at Hillville, in northern NSW near Taree, in a north-westerly direction, along with blazes in other regions, as fires destroyed hundreds of thousands of hectares of bush.

About a dozen homes were damaged or destroyed in fires on Tuesday, as parts of the state endured a “catastrophic” fire danger.

NSW remains in a state of emergency, with high temperatures, strong winds and very low humidity causing treacherous conditions for some 1500 firefighters battling blazes.


More than a million hectares of land has been consumed by bushfires, and authorities dealt with 300 new blazes on Tuesday alone.

The southerly wind change brought lower temperatures, but Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said NSW once again faced hot, dry and windy conditions predicted on Friday and over the weekend.

He warned the challenge ahead remains “enormous”.

“All these fires… are still subject to the influence of this strong southerly change that’s moving across the fireground which will impact and influence fire behaviour, create volatile and potentially dangerous circumstances,” Mr Fitzsimmons told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday evening.

“The enormity of the task to bring these fires properly under control, to consolidate them, to get around them and mop them up is enormous.”

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He said there was still “a really long way to go”.

A number of firefighters were injured, but none are in a critical condition, and there were no people missing as of Tuesday night, he said. Injuries to firefighters throughout the day included fractures, heat exhaustion, fainting and collapse.

The bushfires, which hit hard on Friday, have claimed three lives and destroyed another 12 homes overnight, bringing the total number of properties destroyed to about 160, the Nine Network reported on Wednesday.

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”.

“Unfortunately there’s no meaningful reprieve. There’s no rainfall in this change and we’re going to continue to have warm dry conditions dominating in the days and weeks ahead,” he said, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

“It’s going to be a long, difficult fire season and we have the worst of our conditions typically ahead of us as we come into the months of summer.”

A statewide total fire ban remains in place.

Bureau of Meteorology state manager Ann Farrell said as the southerly change moves up NSW “the fires will be fanned in a different direction”.

A week-long state of emergency has been declared in NSW with the armed forces standing by to provide support, including for search and rescue operations.

Some 600 schools were closed although most are expected to reopen, apart from about 140 state schools – mainly in the north.

2. Four people have been ‘caught breaching NSW fire ban’.

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Three men have allegedly breached NSW’s total fire ban while a nine-year-old boy has admitted to lighting a fire with a blowtorch as blazes rage throughout the state, according to NSW Police.

Police allege the first incident saw a 27-year-old man light a small campfire at Wallacia in Sydney’s west on Monday afternoon to boil water for cups of tea.

He immediately extinguished the flames when police and firefighters arrived, and was issued an on-the-spot $2,200 infringement notice.

Hours later, police were called to a home at Prestons in Sydney’s south-west, where a 35-year-old man allegedly burned fence palings in a cylindrical barbecue.

“Embers from this fire fell to the ground and ignited palings, causing a secondary blaze,” NSW Police said in a statement.

Both fires were extinguished and the man was also issued an infringement notice.

The third man will face court after he allegedly lit a small coal barbecue at a Lalor Park home in Sydney’s west in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Fire and Rescue NSW extinguished the fire and the 46-year-old man was arrested for failing to comply with a total fire ban and breach of bail.

He’s due to appear in a local court on Tuesday.

The nine-year-old, due to his age, was warned under the Young Offenders Act after a small grass fire broke out behind a street in Nowra on the South Coast about 11.35am on Tuesday.

Police say the boy, who was with a group of other children, admitted to lighting the fire with a blowtorch.

The total state-wide fire ban remains in place and has been extended into Wednesday.

It means people cannot light, maintain or use a fire in the open, or carry out any activity in the open that causes, or is likely to cause, a fire.

3. A man has been charged over Western Australia’s mine site murder.

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A FIFO worker has been charged over the death of a colleague at a mine site in Western Australia’s north.

Police were called to Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora lithium-tantalum project about 120km south of Port Hedland about 6.30am on Monday after the 40-year-old victim from Marble Bar was found deceased.

Homicide Squad detectives questioned his 30-year-old co-worker, who is from the Perth suburb of Craigie, and charged him on Tuesday.

The man will face South Hedland Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

Pilbara Minerals issued a statement saying the “tragic incident … involved contractor personnel … and not direct employees”.

“Pilbara Minerals will continue to provide full support to the Western Australia Police Force as their investigation progresses and is unable to provide any further comment,” it said.

Managing director Ken Brinsden said on Monday he was extremely shocked and saddened by what had occurred, and offered condolences “to the affected people and their families”.

The Australian stock exchange-listed company suspended work to facilitate the investigation and has now been cleared to resume operations.

Pilbara Minerals says it expects to return to planned production rates within the next 24 to 48 hours.

It curbed production and processing during the September quarter due to weak demand.

4. Worried Queensland firefighters act before flare-up.

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Firefighters battling to contain a massive blaze in Central Queensland before conditions flare up again are hoping their preparations will hold.

Fire authorities near Yeppoon are worried about rising temperatures and strengthening winds forecast for Wednesday.

“We hope to undertake enough action today … so that tomorrow we have a better success of keeping the fire within the existing lines,” Rural Fire Service’s Inspector Wayne Kapernick said.

The efforts of exhausted firefighters, who have been fighting a blaze burning near Cobraball, Bungundurra, Maryvale and Lake Mary for days, have been boosted with firies from elsewhere in the state.

“It has been a long campaign (that is) taking a tremendous toll,” Inspector Kapernick said.

At least 11 homes were destroyed in the blaze that by Monday was 30-kilometres long.

About 65 per cent of the Cobraball fire was contained on Monday but firefighters were making slow progress on Tuesday, he said.

“Given the dry conditions we’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure those edges are safe and hold up to tomorrow’s conditions with the increased wind strength so there’s no escape of embers,” he said.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services acting commissioner Mike Wassing said he was comfortable with the status of the state’s largest blazes but containment lines would be tested when the winds shift.

Backburning operations at Cobraball have been stalled until winds drop, making it safe to continue.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Dean Narramore said winds would pick up late on Tuesday and Wednesday morning with gusts up to 60km/h from late morning or early afternoon.

Tuesday’s fire danger rating for the Darling Downs and Granite Belt and Southeast Coast is already severe and will remain so on Wednesday and also take in Wide Bay and Burnett.

There is likely to be little reprieve on Thursday before temperatures and winds increase again from Friday throughout the weekend.

5. The rules have been eased for medicinal cannabis in Western Australia.

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Doctors in Western Australia can now prescribe medicinal cannabis without the need for a referral to a specialist.

Allowing GPs to prescribe the medication for patients suffering conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and chronic pain, brings WA into line with other states including NSW, Queensland and Victoria.

But doctors must still seek specialist approval when prescribing for children under the age of 16 and patients who are drug dependent or have a history of drug abuse.

Medicinal cannabis products are not approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration or funded by the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme, which is the responsibility of the federal government.

“It is important for the Commonwealth to have a flexible system that expedites affordable access to new and emerging healthcare treatments,” Health Minister Roger Cook said on Tuesday.

Australian Medical Association WA president Andrew Miller backed the state government’s decision and said the potential for “doctor shopping” was low.

He said medicinal cannabis had been shown to help children with epilepsy and patients with neurological conditions.

“At this stage, the evidence for this use more widely for things such as nausea or for chronic pain is not very good at all,” he told reporters.

“We already have quite good drugs for these things … so, we’ll need to collect a lot more data and see some proper trials coming forward from the drug companies before we’ll be supporting widespread use.”

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