NSW death toll rises to 18 as state hits 'uncharted territory'_1


A man who died defending a friend's property has become the 18th person killed in the NSW bushfires and authorities fear hundreds of homes may have been lost.

The 47-year-old man died of a cardiac arrest on Saturday night near Batlow, southwest of Canberra.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian conceded the state was in "uncharted territory" as thousands of people wait anxiously to find out if their homes survived.

"We can't pretend this is something we have experienced before – it's not," Ms Berejiklian said on Sunday.

"The weather activity we're seeing, the extent and spread of the fires, the speed at which they're going, the way in which they're attacking communities who've never ever seen fire before, is unprecedented."

There were 150 bushfires burning in NSW on Sunday afternoon with 60 uncontained.

There were none at an "emergency" warning level at 4pm but eight remained at "watch and act".



Residents of the border town of Eden were warned of a bushfire about to bear down on their area and but an evacuation order was later downgraded to a 'Watch and Act' alert on Sunday afternoon.

Despite an easing in conditions in the state, NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons warned residents not to become complacent.

"We are seeing an easing of conditions right across the state and there's even a bit of drizzle down on the South Coast," the commissioner said.

"It's certainly a welcome reprieve … but, unfortunately, it's not putting out the fires and it's not helping us with furthering back burning and consolidation work."

Mr Fitzsimmons said crews this week would try and put in additional containment lines before warmer and windier conditions returned by next weekend.

The RFS commissioner said people needed to remain vigilant because "complacency kills".

Crews are conducting surveys to determine how many homes were lost this weekend, but the RFS suspects it was hundreds.

Areas thought to be hardest hit include Bundanoon, Wingello, Batlow, Adelong, the Jervis Bay area, southwest of Nowra, Boydtown, Kiah, Wonboyn, Towamba and Cabramurra.

A number of hospitals and health services had to be relocated from Tumbarumba, Batlow, Pambula, Delegate and Tumut.

"It was an awful day yesterday – it was a very difficult day," Mr Fitzsimmons said.

"We are getting reports that the property losses, the damage and destruction, is likely to be numbering in the hundreds as a result of yesterday's fire activity and fire spread."

At one stage on Saturday afternoon there were 13 bushfires burning at an emergency level.

"That's second only to what we saw a couple of months ago where 17 concurrent fires were burning (at emergency)," Mr Fitzsimmons said.

Two firefighters suffered smoke inhalation overnight while protecting water infrastructure in the South Coast town of Milton.

A statewide total fire ban is in place on Sunday while a week-long state of emergency – the third in as many months – continues.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticised for not alerting fire authorities before announcing the defence force would be deployed to help bushfire recovery efforts.

Mr Fitzsimmons on Sunday admitted he was disappointed about the lack of notice and expressed concern to the prime minister's office and received an apology.