Tourists have been warned to "just get out" of the NSW south coast as experts predict a horror weekend of fires likely to also wreak destruction in the Snowy mountains.
The death toll this bushfire season has now climbed to 15 lives lost, with four confirmed deaths in the past 24 hours. One person remains missing. More than 100 bushfires are burning and 1087 homes confirmed destroyed.
Related: NSW south coast death toll rises to seven, more than 170 homes lost
As HMAS Choules prepares to arrive in Victoria in the early hours of Thursday morning, to assist stranded tourists near Mallacoota in Victoria, the NSW rural fire service is bracing for catastrophic conditions on Saturday.
NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance pleaded with tourists to "just get out of here".
“I think everybody needs to remember we're in the middle of this emergency and we have to get through to a recovery phase," he said.
“Yesterday morning the fire moved at a pace that no-one expected.
“We need everyone to listen to messages, though. People just have to leave. The tourists – just get out of here before the weekend."
Turned left off the Princes Hwy into Conjola Park, NSW South Coast, to find this: house after house, sheds, cars, bush - scorched and wrecked. pic.twitter.com/Rda8pcUq7N— Jeremy Fernandez (@JezNews) January 1, 2020
There are also fresh fears for Sydney's southwest over the Wollondilly fire.
“We are concerned about that fire because of its potential to run into western Sydney if that fire gets away on Saturday,” the deputy commissioner said. “We are quite concerned about that."
“It’s not about the number of firefighters — you could have 10,000 fire fighters on each fire we would not be able to get around these fires because where they’re burning is not easy to get to — there are no easy containment lines, we’d have to get earth moving in to try and create containment lines.
“It isn’t simple to try to get around these fires and that’s why I’m being upfront saying we won’t get around them and Saturday is not looking like it’s going to be a good day at all.
“There is every potential that the conditions on Saturday will be as bad or worse than we saw yesterday.”
Finn's great escape
Meanwhile, the 11 year-old boy whose photograph escaping the bushfires in a tinny at Mallacoota made international news has revealed the terror of that day.
Allison Marion took this photo of her son Finn as he steered them to safety at Mallacoot, Victoria. Photo: ABC
Mother and firefighter Allison Marion took her sons Finn and Caleb Burns to safety in the dinghy under an agreed fire plan worked out with her husband, another firefighter.
“When we left it just went pitch black and it was really, really windy. We were just worried about getting away from the fire and just being safe,” Finn said.
Ms Marion said she was proud of her son's bravery.
“Both my boys are little legends, they were very calm. Finn drove the boat and my other son looked after the dog in the boat,” she told ABC.