HOMES are important, but they are not more important than your life.
That's the message sombre NSW Rural Fire deputy commissioner Rob Rogers had for families in Coonabarabran on Monday as he urged them not to defend or return to the outskirts of town where a wildfire had destroyed 33 homes - and was expected to claim many more.
For the past week firefighters have managed to save properties from hundreds of blazes around the state but when a bushfire broke out in the heart of the Warrumbungle National Park late Sunday, there was little they could do.
Dep Com Rogers said the ferocity of the fire was unlike "anything we have seen in this state for many years" and it was clear "there was no stopping that fire".
Emergency evacuations followed and more than 100 people were seeking shelter at relief centres in Coonabarabran.
The world-leading Siding Spring Observatory had been spared on Monday night but along with the homes lost, more than 50 farm sheds, expensive machinery and untold numbers of sheep and cattle were wiped out.
The fire had burnt through 40,000ha of land and was about 100kms wide.
A change in the wind turned the fire away from Coonabarabran but residents in outlying towns like Baradine were on alert.
Firefighters had hoped cooler conditions would be in their favour on Monday but strong wins fanned 170 fires across the state.
Two major fires, one near Yass and another near Shoalhaven, which had been burning since last week, were finally contained but 50 others remained out-of-control.
Dep Com Rogers said firefighters were doing all they could to create containment lines but controlling fires like the one near Coonabarabran, which was creating smoke plumes up to 14kms high, would not be easy.
He understood homes were "more than just bricks and mortar - they are very important but it's not more important than their life" and said the fact that there had been no reports of serious injury or death in the NSW blazes was paramount.
In Tasmania, firefighters were grieving the loss of one of their own on Monday.
Peter Ronald Cramer, a 61-year-old fire-fighter from Gippsland, Victoria, was the first person to lose their life in the Tasmanian bushfire crisis.
He was one of 70 Victorians sent to Tasmania to fight the Forcett fire and died on Sunday during a back-burning operation near Hobart.
The Tasmanian fires have destroyed 130 properties in the past two weeks.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman announced on Monday his government would give $200,000 to the Red Cross Tasmanian Bushfire Appeal.
He said Queensland was no stranger to natural disasters and understood the need for financial support in tough times.
BUSHFIRE CRISIS UPDATES
- Homes lost: NSW 33, Tasmania 130, Victoria 8
- Deaths: 1 (Tas)
- More than 500,000ha of land burnt
- 170 fires burning
- More than 50 fires uncontained
- 1100 firefighters on duty
- 300 trucks on the ground
MAJOR FIRES STILL BURNING IN NSW
Wambelong- Coonabarabran: A "watch and act" warning is in place for a large bush fire which is burning uncontrolled in the Warrumbungle National Park west of Coonabarabran.
The fire has burnt out more than 40,000 hectares of bushland and is burning in a northerly direction away from Timor Road and the Siding Spring Observatory and is currently burning in the Bugaldie area.
More than 83 firefighters supported by 18 aircraft are working to establish containment lines.
Evacuation centres are open at the Tattersalls Hotel in Baradine and the Coonabarabran Bowling Club.
Redbank North - Warrumbungle: An out of control bush and scrub fire is burning 35 kilometres north east of Coonabarabran along the Newell Hwy in a north westerly direction.
The fire is burning approximately 35 kilometres north east of Coonabarabran near the Newell Hwy.
Yarrabin - Cooma: Favourable weather conditions are allowing firefighters to contain a fire 20kms from Cooma.
The fire has burnt through more than 12,000 hectares of bush and grass land and is moving away from Cooma in an easterly direction.
No immediate threat to property but residents asked to pay attention to changing weather conditions.
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