A 51-year-old man has been charged with lighting an out-of-control fire in the NSW Northern Tablelands in order to protect his cannabis crop.
The fast-moving blaze at Guyra Road in Ebor, northeast of Armidale, was burning across more than 2000ha on Friday afternoon as it spread towards the Ebor township.
The fire was reported to emergency services at about 10.30pm on Thursday.
The man was arrested just after 2pm on Friday in Ebor and charged with intentionally cause fire and be reckless to its spread.
Police will allege in court the man lit the fire as an attempt at a backburn to protect a cannabis crop and made no attempt to control the blaze. They also allege he hoped to benefit from government payments in the recovery after the fire.
He was refused bail to appear at Armidale Local Court on Saturday.
His arrest brings the number of people accused of starting fires in NSW to four.
Two teenage boys are accused of lighting a fire with paper, dry leaves, vegetation and a cigarette lighter on the NSW Far North Coast.
The boys, 13 and 14, were allegedly spotted standing near the fire in scrubland on Casuarina Way in Kingscliff on Monday.
In a separate incident, a 34-year-old man has been charged after allegedly setting off a firework which started a fire in a Sydney park on Thursday evening.
The sheer scale of Australia’s bushfire crisis has been laid bare by spectacular footage taken at Myall Creek near Bungawalbin on New South Wales’ far north coast showing a massive wall of flames destroying bushland
Aerial vision taken by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service showed the incredible blaze stretching into the distance
Commonwealth Bank lawyer Christopher Sun of the posh northern Sydney suburb of St Ives was refused bail at Central Local Court after he allegedly threw the lit firework into bushland at Sydney Park in the inner-west suburb of St Peters about 9.45pm.
Nearby members of the public allegedly stopped the man from leaving and put out the fire by stamping on it.
Mr Sun initially denied he had lit the fire and told police he was exercising in the park, police allege.
The court heard on Friday that police seized a variety of fireworks, sparklers and cigarette lighters from his vehicle.
Mr Sun was charged with cause or set fire to property, fail to comply with total fire ban, and handle explosive/ precursor without authorising license.
He was refused bail to appear in court on November 25.
A fifth man has been arrested over causing trouble in a fire zone, after a man was charged with threatening Rural Fire Service volunteers trying to put out a bushfire near Elands, west of Port Macquarie on Thursday.
Meanwhile, thousands of firefighters are on standby as conditions show no sign of easing up across the weekend.
In Queensland, hot, dry and windy westerly winds are expected today, with a severe fire danger in place in the Darling Downs and Granite Belt district.
The Cobraball fire near Yeppoon in central Queensland initially worried authorities given the difficult weather conditions expected but was downgraded on Saturday morning.
The blaze, which destroyed 15 of the 16 homes lost in Queensland over the past week along with 38 sheds, is 90 per cent contained but that may change when high winds arrive.
Queensland authorities warned residents in six areas to prepare to leave on Saturday morning: in Tarome near the NSW border, Palen Creek and Barney View near Mount Barney, Pechey/Ravensbourne near Hampton, Thornside (part of the Black Snake fire), and south of Bundaberg at Kinkuna Waters and Woodgate/Walkers Point Road.
‘Most of concern is the Pechey and Woodgate/Walkers Point/Kinkuna Waters fire,’ the spokesperson said.
In NSW, the Bureau of Meteorology warns warm, dry and windy conditions could bring elevated fire dangers.
The sheer scale of Australia’s bushfire crisis has been laid bare by spectacular footage showing a massive wall of flames destroying bushland.
Aerial vision shared by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service on Friday evening showed the incredible blaze stretching into the distance at Myall Creek near Bungawalbin on the state’s far north coast.
Another bushfire burning just 100km north-west of Sydney near Colo Heights claimed its first home on Friday, with the wreckage seen smouldering as the blaze continued to rage at emergency level until just before midnight on Saturday morning.
The fires in New South Wales have already burned three times more land this bushfire season than in the entire of last year’s season.
The NSW Rural Fire Service confirmed on Saturday morning that 64 homes were destroyed last week and 23 damaged, but the volunteer service had managed to save 329 homes that were directly threatened by fire.
Rural infrastructure was heavily affected last week with 153 outbuildings destroyed and a further 70 damaged, while seven facilities were burnt to the ground with a further nine damaged.
An estimated million hectares of land has been burned by bushfire across Australia as a whole following the catastrophic fire conditions – the highest possible level of bushfire danger – in the past week.
The hellish conditions come as water levels in Sydney and the surrounding areas reach crisis point, with the region facing an upgrade in the level one water restrictions in place since June.
Another bushfire burning just 100km north-west of Sydney near Colo Heights claimed its first home, with the wreckage seen smouldering (pictured) as the blaze continued to rage at emergency level
Harrowing photographs taken at the scene showed fire still burning in the wreckage of the home as the Gospers Mountain bushfire continued to blaze
Data released by WaterNSW also shows the largest supplier of urban water in Australia, the Warragamba Dam, could run dry by January 2022.
On Saturday there were 66 bushfires burning across NSW.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said firefighters were exhausted after battling such an extreme week of bushfires.
‘There’s fatigue alright, the physical fatigue, but these men and women, they’re so emotionally and mentally invested in just trying to save and protect their communities,’ he said.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said on Friday firefighters were exhausted after battling such an extreme week of bushfires (pictured, fire at Gospers Mountain north-west of Sydney moves towards a property)
‘There’s fatigue alright, the physical fatigue, but these men and women, they’re so emotionally and mentally invested in just trying to save and protect their communities,’ he said (pictured a firefighter watches on at the Gospers Mountain fire near Sydney)
A water bombing plane dropped fire retardant over the Colo Heights area as the 80,000 Gospers Mountain blaze raged on
New South Wales’ north faces the greatest danger on Saturday as severe fire ratings have been issued for the New England, Northern Slopes and northwestern regions as well as total fire bans.
The situation was also dire in Queensland south of Bundaberg where firefighters continued to battle against spot fires fanned by dry winds.
On Friday an emergency warning was issued for residents of Colo Heights, about 90 minutes north west of Sydney, to leave their homes immediately as bushfires approached.
Fire retardant coated an area close to a property in Colo Heights as firefighters struggled tom contain the emergency level fire on Friday afternoon
One tree near the fire at Gospers Mountain was coated in flame retardant, resembling a jacaranda tree against the blackened sky
The sun was blocked by smoke rising from the Gospers Mountain bushfire on Friday in St Albans
An estimated million hectares of land has been burned by bushfire across Australia following catastrophic fire conditions – the highest possible level of bushfire danger – in the past week (fire at Colo Heights pictured)
The 85,000-hectare bushfire at Gospers Mountain on Sydney’s outskirts, which destroyed a property, escalated rapidly on Friday afternoon.
Danger: An out-of-control and fast-moving bushfire is burning near Colo Heights north-west of Sydney
Leave now: Smoke was seen over homes in Colo Heights on Friday afternoon as the bushfire closed in
The bushfire at Gospers Mountain in the Wollemi National Park, 90km north west of Sydney, has been burning for several days and worsened in Friday’s hot and windy conditions. Several other fires (pictured) were also burning around Sydney
The Rural Fire Service NSW confirmed on Friday more than 250 homes have been destroyed since the same time last week, with almost 90 damaged. Some 480 outbuildings and 18 facilities have also been razed.
Firefighters are prepared for high temperatures and hot, dry westerly winds on Friday and into the weekend.
Residents of Colo Heights were being urged to evacuate towards Wilberforce on Friday
The Bureau of Meteorology said the smoke was expected to move when a southerly wind hits the city on Friday evening
Residents at Colo Heights, just 90 minutes northwest of Sydney, were urged to evacuate as an out of control bushfire rapidly approaches (pictured on Friday afternoon)
An air tanker drops fire retardant on the Gospers Mountain fire near Colo Height on Friday afternoon
The death toll since Friday now stands at four, with harrowing details emerging of the latest victim’s final hours.
Barry Parsons’ body was discovered in bushland on the southern end of the Kyuna Track at Willawarrin, near Kempsey, on Wednesday night.
His body was found five days after his last sighting and a final post on a Facebook page in the 58-year-old’s name described Friday’s horror conditions.
‘Seriously looks and sounds like apocolyse (sic) out there. F**ked up being on your own in these times,’ Mr Parsons’ post read.
Mr Parsons had reportedly been living alone in a shed in the remote area.
News of his death follows that of Julie Fletcher, 63, who died in the town of Johns River, and Wytaliba locals Vivian Chaplain, 69, and George Nole.
The Insurance Council of Australia said insurers had received 900 claim applications, with initial losses totalling $100 million.
Australian billionaire James Packer, meanwhile, has on Friday pledged $1 million to boost RFS resources and equipment budgets.
In Queensland, the Pechey fire, which has been burning for several days, flared as conditions worsened on Friday.
The fire travelled east from Grapetree Road at Pechey towards Ravensbourne.
The Cobraball fire near Yeppoon in central Queensland continues to worry authorities given the difficult weather conditions expected in coming days.
The blaze, which destroyed 15 of the 16 homes lost in Queensland over the past week, is 90 per cent contained but that could change when high winds arrive.
Temperatures near major fire grounds are expected to soar beyond 30C on Friday and into the weekend.
Approximately 50 homes were evacuated when the blaze broke out. Almost all of Queensland faces a high or very high fire danger on Friday