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NSW prepares for worsening fire conditions -

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ANNABEL CRABB, PRESENTER: Firefighters are bracing themselves for worsening conditions over the next 48 hours. For the latest news, our reporter Matt Peacock joins us from the headquarters of the Rural Fire Service.

Thanks for being with us, Matt.


ANNABEL CRABB: Can you tell us where the RFS will be concentrating its efforts tonight?

MATT PEACOCK: Well there are 60 fires around the state and 20 of them are uncontrolled, but the real one to worry about where there's an emergency still declared is the so-called Bilpin fire, the one that runs along the northern side of the Grose Valley and that one is still raging and there are communities at Mount Tomah and Mount Wilson, Mounts Irvine where people have been told to look after themselves, that they'll be isolated for a few days most likely. And other fires, for example, in the Southern Highlands and also at Springwood, where we had the really bad flare-up last Thursday, did flare up again today, but they've now been contained, a bit of spotting and they're sort of "watch and take care" level.

ANNABEL CRABB: There were some concerns that the fire burning between Lithgow and Bilpin could at some point merge with the blaze near Mount Victoria. What happens if those two fires come together?

MATT PEACOCK: Well, the fear is that it starts a long fire that rages down the Grose Valley, and once that starts, then it's possible, particularly with the weather that they're expecting, that it could flare up into any one of those mountain communities. And for that reason, they'll be back-burning tonight and probably tomorrow, depending on the conditions and whether the wind stays down like it was today. Fairly aggressive back-burning along that escarpment country below Blackheath, Katoomba and the southern side of the valley.

ANNABEL CRABB: Well everyone's watching the weather very closely. Tell us what the prognosis is for the next couple of days and what consequences it might have.

MATT PEACOCK: Well it is going to get hotter. The wind up in the mountains today wasn't too bad, actually, and it was particularly good overnight. But they're expecting that to worsen, especially by Wednesday. They're expecting a north-westerly wind that could flare up a bit like the sort of winds that we saw there last week. And of course, the firemen up there - firefighters up there were telling me that what was confusing about it and quite alarming was that the wind blew from all different directions. It was north-east one minute, north-west the next, and ferocious, at some points gusting up to 100 kilometres an hour. So that's the big fear that everybody's hoping won't happen.

ANNABEL CRABB: But they must be getting incredibly tired on the ground there. How are they managing this mammoth effort?

MATT PEACOCK: Well, last night, for example - there's something like 2,000 firefighters from all over the country pretty much up there. Last night it was fairly well managed. People were going home. They're being very careful about rationing their energy because in a sense they're containing this fire. They're going to be, like I say, aggressively back-burning and trying to protect the mountain communities over the next night and day, but they are conserving their resources, one suspects, for any sort of real explosion of fire that could come with the bad weather.

ANNABEL CRABB: Talking about conserving and managing energy, Matt, I know it's been an incredibly long day for you. Thanks for being with us this evening at the end of the program.

MATT PEACOCK: Thank you.