Smoke has blanketed Taree on the NSW mid-north coast as major bushfires continue to burn and residents at the town's packed evacuation centres wait anxiously for news on their homes.
The Hillville Road fire south of Taree, which has burnt through more than 22,000 hectares, briefly flared to emergency level again on Wednesday afternoon as winds pushed the fire towards Burrell Creek and Bo Bo Creek.
It has since dropped back to a "watch and act" alert.
At a staging point outside the Burrell Creek RFS headquarters, captain Greg Walker was warily watching the flames.
He's been fighting the fire on and off for almost a week.
In his time off-shift he's been at home preparing his house in case it comes in the path of the fire.
"I always thought I'd defend my home, but I've seen what this fire is doing," he told AAP.
"I'd be out of here, my kids need me ... a defendable home isn't really defendable at the moment."
An emergency warning had been issued for the fire on Tuesday, with residents of Taree and surrounding towns spending the night waiting to see whether southerly winds pushed the fire closer to their homes.
As they waited, the fire sent blackened leaves floating onto the street.
Both the Taree and nearby Wingham showgrounds are at full evacuee capacity, while families are setting up makeshift camps at an evacuation centre at Club Taree, with cars parked up to the gates.
The anticipation was the worst part of waiting, according to Tinonee resident Sharon Chamberlain.
"You just think, how long is your luck going to last?" Ms Chamberlain told AAP as she fed her neighbours' horses, left behind at the evacuation centre as their owners battled blazes.
"When you lock the door for the last time and you walk away, and you don't know if it's going to be there when you get back, that's one of the hardest things.
"How much more are we expected to take?"
In the Taree showground's donation centre, a dedicated group is working hard to sort through the staggering amount of clothing, toiletries, food and bedding that has been donated for those forced to flee.
"It's been such a morale booster ... a lot of the people are saying just to come in here and see it and know that it's all coming in from the community," volunteer Kylie Keogh said.
"It can be overwhelming for them, even something as small as a piece of cake."
Fellow volunteer Damien Watters said the community's generosity had shone through in Taree's time of need.
"There was a young couple that came in yesterday just to drop off some clothes that their kids had outgrown, and they asked what we needed ... within half an hour they'd gone out and bought it with their own money," Mr Watters said.
"People have just been so grateful just to have the stuff ... a lot of the most deserving people have been the ones that are least inclined to take the stuff or accept the help."
Australian Associated Press