UPDATED

Catastrophic fire danger in Greater Hunter on Tuesday, November 12

HAZE: Smoke from the state's bushfires drifts over Vincent Street, Cessnock on Tuesday morning. Picture: Krystal Sellars
HAZE: Smoke from the state's bushfires drifts over Vincent Street, Cessnock on Tuesday morning. Picture: Krystal Sellars

Hunter residents are being warned to be prepared for the highest level of bushfire danger on Tuesday.

Catastrophic fire danger has been forecast for the Greater Hunter on Tuesday, due to worsening weather conditions.

Catastrophic is the highest level of bush fire danger. If you are in the path of a fire in these conditions, your life will be at risk. Avoid bushland areas.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has declared a State of Emergency for the next seven days.

See warnings and updates for the day below.

Assistance for landholders

Bushfire affected landholders with concerns about their animals and livestock can reach out for assistance through the NSW Government's Agricultural Services Hotline on 1800 814 647.

Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and Local Land Services officers are assisting landholders in northern NSW to manage animal welfare-related issues, which include:

  • Emergency fodder and stock water
  • Animal assessment and veterinary assistance
  • Stock euthanasia and burial
  • Livestock feeding and management advice
  • Care of animals in evacuation centres.

Landholders are being encouraged to prepare before an emergency by:

  • Knowing the risk to you, your animals and property
  • Knowing where to go
  • Knowing who to call
  • Knowing your plan
  • Have an emergency kit for you and your animals.

Pool sign

During bushfires, firefighters often have difficulty getting enough water. There may not be enough water in the mains. Static water supplies, such as swimming pools, tanks and dams, may be vital sources of water for firefighters.

If your house or property has a water source, such as a swimming pool, tank or dam, you can assist firefighters by prominently displaying a SWS sign at your property boundary so that it is readily visible from the road.

The backyard swimming pool provides an ideal emergency water supply for firefighters, using small portable pumps and hose lines, to protect your home and possessions. Your pool water will only be used as a last resort during major bushfires.

Your voluntary inclusion in this program may assist the fire service to extinguish a fire should one occur in or near your home or a neighbour's home or property.

Neighbourhood Safer Places

The Neighbourhood Safer Place for Maitland is No. 1 Sportsground, James Street, Maitland, due to construction works occurring at No. 2.

Safer Places in Cessnock include Jeffrey Park, Kearsley; Wollombi Tennis Court (car park); Laguna Oval; Miller Park, East Branxton;Mulbring Cricket Club; Branxton Oval.

Safer Places in Dungog include Reg Ford Oval, Clarence Town; Vacy Sports Ground; Gresford Sporting Complex; Dungog Showground, Bennett Park, Dungog; Clarencetown Football Reserve; Paterson Sports Ground; Tucker Park, Paterson; Bridge Reserve, Clarence Town.

Forecast surface temperature and wind on Tuesday according to the ECMWF-HRES model. Picture: Weatherzone

Forecast surface temperature and wind on Tuesday according to the ECMWF-HRES model. Picture: Weatherzone

A Neighbourhood Safer Place is a building or an open space that may provide for improved protection of human life during the onset and passage of a bush fire.

It is a location where people facing an immediate threat to their personal safety can gather and seek shelter from the impact of a bush fire.

Their function is to provide a place of last resort for a person to seek shelter at during the passage of the bush fire front.

If it is required, Club Maitland City will also open its doors as an emergency evacuation centre.

School closures update (9.40pm Monday)

  • Black Hill Public School
  • Cessnock East Public School
  • Congewai Public School
  • Holy Spirit Infants School Abermain
  • Glen William Public School
  • Kitchener Public School
  • Kurri Kurri High School
  • Laguna Public School
  • Martins Creek Public School
  • Milbrodale Public School
  • Pelaw Main Public School
  • Rosary Park Catholic School
  • Stanford Merthyr Infant School
  • St Aloysius Chisholm
  • St Bede's Chisholm
  • St Joseph's Dungog
  • St Philip's Christian College Cessnock

TAFE NSW - Kurri Kurri and all The University of Newcastle campuses (except Newcastle CBD and Sydney CBD) will also be closed on Tuesday.

NSW Police

Hunter Valley Police will be conducting high-visibility patrols around bushfire-prone areas on Tuesday.

Chief Inspector Michael Gorman said police have been liaising with Cessnock Council and local fire brigades to prepare for Tuesday's Catastrophic conditions.

He urged people to follow instructions from RFS and NSW Fire and Rescue and call police if they see people acting suspiciously in bushland areas.

"With the conditions, it's not going to take a lot for it to cause a whole heap of trouble," he said.

NSW Department of Education

The following public schools in the Cessnock-Maitland-Dungog area will temporarily cease operations on Tuesday, November 12 due to increased fire risk in the area:

  • Black Hill Public School
  • Cessnock East Public School
  • Congewai Public School
  • Glen William Public School
  • Kitchener Public School
  • Kurri Kurri High School
  • Laguna Public School
  • Martins Creek Public School
  • Pelaw Main Public School
  • Stanford Merthyr Infants School

We have also been advised the TAFE NSW Kurri Kurri campus will be closed on Tuesday.

Catholic schools

A message from Gerard Mowbray, Acting Director of Catholic Schools, Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle

As you are aware, we face a catastrophic fire situation tomorrow and, along with this, today the Premier of NSW has declared NSW a state of emergency for the next seven days.

As a result of this advice, and, following a meeting held at the Catholic Schools Office this morning, with several key diocesan executives, a decision has been made to close the following schools on Tuesday 12 November.

  • Holy Spirit Abermain
  • Rosary Park Branxton
  • St Paul's Booragul
  • St Joseph's Bulahdelah
  • St Joseph's Charlestown
  • St Aloysius Chisholm
  • St Bede's Chisholm
  • St Joseph's Dungog
  • Holy Name Forster
  • St Joseph's Gloucester
  • Holy Cross Glendale
  • St James Kotara South
  • St Joseph's Kilaben Bay
  • St Brigid's Raymond Terrace
  • St Joseph's Taree
  • St Clare's Taree
  • St Mary's Warners Bay
  • St Pius X Windale
  • St Joseph's Wingham

Additionally, the St Joseph's Aberdeen bus from Merriwa will not run tomorrow.

This decision was made in consideration of local advice, the schools RFS Fire zone rating and the catastrophic fire warning issued for Tuesday 12 November. In this instance, students are not to attend school.

This advice will be updated daily while conditions remain volatile.

Safety is our priority.

Our thoughts and prayers are with our local communities who have been deeply affected by the devastation of these bushfires.

Thornton RFS

Thornton Rural Fire Brigade we will open the station between 7pm and 8pm on Monday for people to ask questions and talk to firefighters.

"We are more than happy to help you with your bush fire survival plan, answer any and all questions you might have about tomorrows fire danger rating, the fires on the mid North coast, the declared state of emergency for NSW, and anything else," the brigade posted on Facebook.

Updated information is available on the NSW RFS website or by calling RFS Bush Fire Information Line - 1800 NSW RFS (1800 679 737).

For our local area the Lower Hunter Fire Control Centre can be contacted on 02 4015 0000

Schools

Schools in identified high risk areas will be closed. Schools will notify affected students. Start making arrangements now.

The Department of Education requires schools in Bush Fire prone areas to temporarily cease operations on days when a Catastrophic Fire Danger Rating (FDR) is issued in their NSW Fire Area.

Updates on school closures are listed here.

Ambulance warning

NSW Ambulance warns that people with any respiratory issues or who are particularly vulnerable can be the first to feel the effects of smoke which may aggravate their existing condition.

Even healthy adults and children can be impacted by the effects of heavy smoke which can result in lung irritation.

Ensure you stay hydrated and pay particular attention to any symptoms (dizziness, headaches, racing pulse or nausea) of heat related illness.

Be aware of potential hazards such as embers, falling debris, damage to surroundings and reduced visibility which can cause injury.

Paramedics are urging people in fire affected areas to wear any form of eyewear and loose clothing to cover your skin to assist in reducing any incidental injury.

NSW Ambulance recommends if anyone sustains any form of burn they should cool the affected area immediately with water - ideally running water - for a minimum of 20 minutes (for eyes ensure you flush the eye) and seek medical attention.

Road closures

Information on road closures is available via Live Traffic at www.livetraffic.com

More information on Catastrophic conditions

Homes are not designed to withstand a fire under Catastrophic conditions. If a fire starts and takes hold during Catastrophic fire danger conditions, lives and homes will be at risk. Advice for people in areas of Catastrophic fire danger include:

  • Avoid bush fire prone areas. A safer area may be a large town or city, shopping centres or facilities well away from bushland areas.
  • If you are unable to leave, identify a safe location which may be nearby. This may include a Neighbourhood Safer Place.

This is the first time since new Fire Danger Ratings were introduced in 2009 that Catastrophic fire danger has been forecast for Sydney.

A statewide total fire ban has been declared for all areas of NSW for all of Monday and Tuesday.

This story UPDATES: Tuesday's Catastrophic fire danger - what you need to know first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.