Sydney prepares for 'catastrophic fire danger' as smoke blankets the city

12 November 2019, 07:29 | Updated: 12 November 2019, 16:03

Residents defend a property from a bushfire, 350km north of Sydney. PETER PARKS / Contributor
Residents defend a property from a bushfire, 350km north of Sydney. Picture: Getty

Sydney has been rated the highest level of warning - "catastrophic fire danger" - for the first time ever as smoke from nearby bushfires blankets the city.

Millions of people in and around Sydney are facing the highest risk of wildfires as more than 1 million acres of the drought-ridden area continue to burn.

More than 70 blazes are burning across New South Wales - with some residents being warned to seek shelter because it's too late to evacuate as weather conditions continue to fuel devastating bushfires.

There are also 55 fires burning in the state of Queensland to the north, which has also declared a state of emergency.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service warned some to seek shelter as it was too late to flee.

Australia's most populous state declared a fire emergency on Monday with worsening conditions expected from wildfires that have claimed three lives and more than 150 homes.

New South Wales state emergency services minister David Elliott said residents were facing what "could be the most dangerous bushfire week this nation has ever seen."

A helicopter drops water on fires in an attempt to save houses
A helicopter drops water on fires in an attempt to save houses. Picture: PA

This is the first time since new fire danger ratings were introduced in 2009 that catastrophic fire danger has been forecast for Sydney.

More than 100 people, including 20 firefighters, have been treated for fire-related injuries.

A bushfire danger rating sign is seen near Richmond, west of Sydney
A bushfire danger rating sign is seen near Richmond, west of Sydney. Picture: PA

"We are not going to control fires under catastrophic conditions," said Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. "They have the ability to develop and grow extremely quickly and develop into very large fires."

"Now is the time to exercise those decisions to leave, leave early and go to safer locations, safer towns and villages or safer places in your local community, such as the shopping centres."

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