Firefighters have gained the upper hand on three major bushfires near Cessnock, but the battle is far from over.
Crews have continued to work tirelessly over the Christmas and New Year period to keep the Little L fire and Crumps Complex fires (either side of Wollombi) and the Owendale blaze in Pokolbin State Forest under control.
The Little L fire has burned through more than 166,000 hectares in Yengo National Park (west of Wollombi) since it was ignited by a lightning strike in the last week of November.
The Crumps fire, in Corrabare State Forest (to Wollombi's east), was also started by a lightning strike the same week and has burned through almost 7000 hectares.
Wollombi Rural Fire Brigade captain Rob Tulloch said both of these fires are fully behind containment lines, and crews will continue to patrol the area to ensure it stays contained.
While heavy rain is the only thing that will extinguish the fire any time soon, Mr Tulloch said he is "reasonably confident" the fires will stay behind containment lines, but remains vigilant that anything could happen in the steep, dry, unburnt territory.
"In steep and hilly country, burning logs could cross into unburnt country, and could throw embers," he said.
"Because the country is so dry, the fuel is so dry.
"We are one dry lightning strike away from another fire.
"It's keeping the guys on their toes."
Mr Tulloch said a number of structures have been lost in the Little L and Crumps fires, but could not confirm how many.
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The Little L fire reached emergency level on December 5 and 6. It has now merged with the Kerry Ridge and Paddock Run fires near Putty, the Three Mile fire in the Central Coast LGA, and the Gospers Mountain fire in Wollemi National Park, creating a combined fireground of more than one million hectares, spreading from Wollombi to the Blue Mountains.
Just north of Wollombi, the Owendale fire reached emergency level on the night of December 21, fanned by strong southerly winds that caused spotting at Broke.
The fire breached its containment lines last Saturday during severe conditions, and was listed as 'being controlled' on Tuesday.
Pokolbin Rural Fire Brigade captain Stephen Drayton said crews were hoping to lock down the 5500-hectare blaze in cooler conditions this week, with firefighting aircraft deployed to the area.
RFS volunteers have been assisted by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Fire and Rescue NSW and Forestry Corporation personnel to contain the blaze, which has been burning in rugged terrain between Pokolbin and Broke for about a month.
"There has been a big push to keep it off the face of the Brokenback Range, which looks down into Pokolbin," Mr Drayton said.
"The cooler weather has been ideal, and Forestry have got a good handle on it.
"We are hoping to lock it down over the next couple of days before heat returns."
While Owendale has been the Pokolbin brigade's main focus over in recent weeks, it has also assisted at Wollombi, Laguna and Pelaw Main in the last month.
Mr Drayton said while it has been a busy and tough time, they have been fortunate compared to many other parts of the state.
"We've been so lucky here, compared to the South Coast this week and the North Coast earlier in the season," he said.
"We've certainly had out challenges, but we've been very lucky."
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