Red alert on bushfire threat
Flames ... 50 per cent of households had a member who intended to stay and defend. Photo: Mick Tsikas
NSW is facing its most dangerous bushfire threat in 12 years as the state swelters through a record-breaking heatwave and fire officials express concern about the public's preparedness.
Across the country, fire crews were battling more than 100 bushfires on Saturday.
The NSW Rural Fire Service is on high alert with extreme temperatures forecast for Sunday, particularly in the state's south and west.
The bushfire threat will be at its greatest on Tuesday, when the soaring temperatures combine with strong winds to create the perfect conditions for dangerous blazes.
The most serious fires were in Tasmania, where the bushfire that tore through the town of Dunalley and nearby villages on Friday engulfed more than 100 homes, including Dunalley's school and police station.
Late on Saturday afternoon the Tasmanian Fire Service issued an emergency warning for a large bushfire in the state's south-east.
''It is too late to leave. Residents should take shelter now and go to their nearby safer place only if the path is clear. Leaving now is considered extremely dangerous,'' TFS said on its website.
The east coast holiday town of Coles Bay was also isolated on Saturday afternoon due to a fire burning at Bicheno, 180 kilometres north-east of Hobart.
In NSW, 30 fires burned across the state on Saturday, including on the state's mid-north coast at Green Point, just south of Forster. The blaze, which started on Friday afternoon, was contained on Saturday but police expressed concern after their investigations revealed it appeared to have been deliberately lit.
Three teenagers were charged with arson after allegedly deliberately lighting bushfires near a major hospital in Newcastle on Thursday and Friday, eliciting a rebuke from the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.
The RFS Deputy Commissioner, Rob Rogers, said a decade-long drought, followed by two years of rain, meant there was a risk that NSW had become complacent to just how serious a threat bushfires can pose.
''In some cases you have a generation who haven't seen a big fire. Complacency is a big problem for us,'' Mr Rogers said.