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Disaster loans on way for devastated land-holders, businesses

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Stephanie Anderson and Lisa Cox

Crews work to contain a fire near Bungendore that has burnt through more than 1100 hectares of land off the Kings Highway. The highway remained closed on Wednesday night.

Crews work to contain a fire near Bungendore that has burnt through more than 1100 hectares of land off the Kings Highway. The highway remained closed on Wednesday night. Photo: Rohan Thomson

Thirty-seven local government areas across New South Wales will be able to access natural disaster assistance as bushfires continue to tear through the state on Wednesday evening.

Affected communities including Queanbeyan, Cooma-Monaro Palerang and Goulburn Mulwaree will receive assistance from joint federal and state funding, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said.

Loans of up to $130,000 will be made available for eligible farmers and businesses in urgent need following the fires, which continue to spread through areas such as Jugiong near Yass.

A bushfire burning 8km south west of Naradhan, north of Griffith in New South Wales. Click for more photos

NSW and ACT fires - 9th January 2013

After a day of sweltering temperatures, firefighters in NSW and the ACT are still facing tough battles against approximately 30 uncontained fires still burning around the state. Areas of concern are Cooma, Deans Gap and Sussex Inlet, Lithgow, Yass and Mudgee. A total fire ban still exists statewide, and all national parks, state forests and reserves have been closed to the public. Selected images available from www.fairfaxsyndication.com. Follow us at http:\twitter.com/photosSMH. Photo: AFP/NSW Rural Fire Service

The blaze has burnt through more than 16,270 hectares, and is one of several out-of-control fires moving through New South Wales following the dangerous fire conditions earlier this week.

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Conditions have eased slightly meaning there will be no total fire ban in the ACT on Thursday but authorities say the ban could return later in the week.

As property owners were mopping up and counting stock losses, Rural Fire Service crews were battling the blaze burning in a gully near Bowning, which was inaccessible to ground crews and could be fought only by water bombers on Wednesday.

One volunteer said crews ''would be lucky'' to have the blaze out before extreme conditions hit again on Saturday.

''What we'd like to do is at least get the edges blacked out,'' he said.

''This will be going for weeks.''

He said the firefighting conditions on Tuesday were equal to those seen in Canberra in 2003.

Residents have also described a terrifying flight for survival from the fire on Cobbler Road [near Yass] where Betty Chilton was minding her grandchildren when they saw the fire creeping up on their boundary fence on Tuesday.

"My grandson was in the lounge room and said he could smell smoke," she said.

"We went outside and could see it burning over the creek."

Her daughter Amanda Hulme returned home to see the flames getting close to the property.

She said they grabbed their things and ''just left'', without any time to feel afraid.

''It was a rush to get out, but a home can be replaced,'' she said.

Meanwhile a family were moved to emergency accommodation after their Mount Forest Road home was destroyed by the Yarrabin bushfire, which has torn through more than 9430 hectares near Cooma since Sunday.

Though the time of the incident is yet to be confirmed, authorities said the blaze consumed the small home belonging to the family of five sometime on Tuesday. "Those people have since been put up in emergency accommodation," a spokeswoman said.

''The fire services were there at the time, extinguishing everything. They did everything they could …but unfortunately there were still some hot spots in the ground that ignited the building.''

There are also reports that no homes have been lost outside Bungendore as crews continue to battle a bushfire burning through more than 1100 hectares of land off the Kings Highway

As of 6am on Wednesday, the blaze had moved through 1123 hectares of land with a burnt perimeter of 17 kilometres, said RFS members on the ground, who stated that the fire had been controlled, but not contained.

The fact that Tuesday passed without loss of life has been deemed a "remarkable tribute" to the planning of the RFS and other emergency services by Premier Barry O'Farrell, who toured the Yass shire on Wednesday.

"Whether it's the neighbourhood safety places, the early warnings, the bushfire survival plans and the clarity around whether to come and whether to go, we have learned those lessons," he said.

Towards the coast, crews continue to battle a fire with a 44-kilometre perimeter at Dean's Gap near Nowra which has burnt out more than 3800 hectares.

Fire crews are strategically positioned to protect properties, and relocation centres are open in Sussex Inlet.

In Canberra, ACT authorities were using the predicted cooler days ahead to prepare for a return of dangerous conditions later in the week, Acting Emergency Services Agency commissioner, Tony Graham, said.

"If we can get two days of no fire activity, it just freshens up the crews," he said. "Whilst we've got a number of crews out and about at the moment, we've still got a much larger number not being utilised."

Mr Graham said forecasts of hot temperatures and high winds for Saturday were concerning.

''If we get a fire, we're going to have jump on that very, very quickly,'' he said.

with Hamish Boland-Rudder

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Crews work to contain fires near Bungendore. Pic taken from the Kings Highway. NSW and ACT fires - 9th January 2013

After a day of sweltering temperatures, firefighters in NSW and the ACT are still facing tough battles against approximately 30 uncontained fires still burning around the state. Areas of concern are Cooma, Deans Gap and Sussex Inlet, Lithgow, Yass and Mudgee. A total fire ban still exists statewide, and all national parks, state forests and reserves have been closed to the public. Selected images available from www.fairfaxsyndication.com. Follow us at http:\twitter.com/photosSMH.

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