Authorities warned residents in Australia's most populous state to flee their homes as firefighters battle dozens of wildfires in what are expected to be dangerously hot and windy conditions Wednesday.
Since late last week, the fires burning across the mountainous bushlands in New South Wales have destroyed more than 200 homes and damaged dozens of others. So far, one person has been killed.
Conditions are set to worsen Wednesday. Temperatures are expected to reach 30 degrees Celsius as winds gust up to 100 kilometers per hour.
Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said that although the conditions could be "as bad as it gets," so far the fires have not worsened.
"For every hour that we get through today without any outbreak, without any serious run of fire, that's an indication we've got every prospect of keeping fires that little bit further away from people, from homes and communities that might find themselves in the path of developing large fires," said Fitzsimmons.
Officials say 59 fires are burning in the state, 19 of which are out of control. In some cases, fire crews are merging the blazes in an attempt to make them more manageable and steer them away from more populated areas.
Many area schools and nursing homes have been closed and residents have been told to evacuate their homes before conditions get worse. Local media reports say that some residents have decided to leave.
The blazes, which have a massive perimeter of 1,600 kilometers, have been extraordinarily intense and early in an annual fire season that peaks during the southern hemisphere's summer, which begins in December.