- Full coverage: links to maps, videos, reports
- NSW bushfires: what you need to know
- NSW bushfires: live updates
Rain that fell overnight on four major bushfires burning in the Blue Mountains and the southern highlands actually hampered firefighting efforts, authorities said, as strengthening winds had already ramped up to 70km/h early on Wednesday morning.
If you don't have a plan, quite simply let me give you one: pack the car now, head down the mountain.
As the NSW bushfire emergency enters its seventh and most dangerous day, residents who did not have a bushfire plan were told on Wednesday morning quite simply to pack the car and leave.
Bushfire warning: Mike Gallacher. Photo: Max Mason Hubers
"There should not be discussions around breakfast tables in the Blue Mountains or in other parts of the state affected by fire today (of) 'What are we going to do today if ...' That should have been done," Emergency Services minister Mike Gallacher said.
"If you don't have a plan, quite simply let me give you one: pack the car now, head down the mountain, come down and enjoy time in the metropolitan area and allow the firefighters the freedom to move through the community to protect your homes."
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell said firefighters had planned as best they could for Wednesday's potentially devastating conditions.
Banksia bombing: NSW Rural Fire Service Crews in property protection mode throw burning Banksia cones off an escarpment as they commence a back burn north of the Bells Line of Road between Berambing and Bilpin. Photo: Wolter Peeters
"We are all in this together, and we are going to get through this day," he said.
"We hope of course that today’s conditions, today’s potential events, do not occur. As the commissioner has said repeatedly, we’ve planed for the worst but we continue to hope for the best.’’
The Rural Fire Service (RFS) had warned since the weekend about the potential devastation Wednesday's weather could cause, and a revised forecast issued on Tuesday evening was even more worrying than expected.
Hampered by rain: Shane Fitzsimmons Photo: Edwina Pickles
Wednesday would be hotter, drier and windier, with temperatures in the mid to high 30s, very low humidity and wind gusts of between 80 and 100km/h.
There are no emergency warnings in place for fires in NSW, but the Rural Fire Service said that could change rapidly throughout the day.
Four "watch and act" warnings are in place: for the State Mine fire in Lithgow, and fires at Mount Victoria, Springwood, and around the townships of Bargo and Balmoral in the southern highlands.
NSW Bushfires: Little chance of respite
Firefighters take a break and watch a chopper firebomb at Dudley. Photo: Darren Pateman
One of the largest firefighting contingents ever to be assembled in NSW history is ready to battle an active 1500-kilometre fire edge in the Blue Mountains.
Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said up to five millimetres of rain had fallen across fire grounds on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.
The heaviest rain in the Blue Mountains fell around Springwood, Winmalee and Bilpin, while rain also fell on the southern highlands blaze.
Live details of active fires - click on the icons for more information. Source: NSW Rural Fire Service.
"Whilst that is some welcome relief in terms of moderating the current fire behaviour, it has compromised considerably the ability to continue with the backburning operations that were planned throughout the evening," Mr Fitzsimmons said.
"It was already challenging enough trying to do backburning operations in fuels that were fairly young, only a few years old, because they were only burnt in recent years.
"You add onto that elevated humidities, or indeed some shower activity, and we had some real issues. That's certainly what's happened overnight."
He said firefighters and fire trucks were withdrawn from a lot of fire trails overnight due to safety concerns.
"What we didn't want with some of the drizzle was to have fire trucks starting to get bogged or starting to slide off slippery, dirty trails, which history would show too often occurs under those sort of conditions," he said.
In today's extreme heat and wind, the dampness would not take long to dry out, he said.
"Already, and indeed from about 6.30 this morning, we are starting to see the north-westerly winds strengthen, and observations up in the back end of the Blue Mountains are showing wind strengths already tipping up to 40-70km/h," Mr Fitzsimmons said.
"The indications are that the inversion, or cloud, that is still hanging around is expected to dissipate over the coming hours and the onset of the hotter, drier conditions will start to mix down and come across the fire ground areas.
"It is too early to call just where these fires will break out, and therefore which communities will start being impacted first."
Mr Fitzsimmons said widespread lightning overnight had sparked a blaze around Broken Hill, but firefighters had managed to get the upper hand on that fire.
He said Prime Minister Tony Abbott had called him on Wednesday morning, offering his support ahead of the day's tough conditions.
Mr Fitzsimmons said this bushfire season was promising to be a long, hard slog.
"This is unparalleled in terms of fire activity, in terms of damage and destruction, in terms of multi-agency inter-jurisdictional assistance coming to bear so early in the season," he said.
"And with an outlook ahead from the Bureau of Meteorology that simply suggests a continuance of above average temperatures and below average rainfalls, the real challenge is we are likely to be in for a long, hot, drawn-out summer season, which means a long, hot, drawn-out bushfire season."