New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has confirmed two people are missing after a weekend of catastrophic fire conditions.
Ms Berejiklian said authorities have been unable to access a number of communities due to dangerous conditions.
“There has only been a small percentage of properties that have been able to be accessed at this point, that work continues today and of course we also need to take into consideration the terrain and also the safety of our own workers who have to go into the areas,” she said.
“This morning is all about recovery, it’s about making sure that people who have been displaced have somewhere safe and it’s also making sure that we have resources to start building up that presence on the ground to clean up the roads, clean up where the rubble activity exists to allow communities to start rebuilding which is so important.”
There are still 130 fires burning across the state with 54 not contained, however all fires have been reduced to advice level, helped by favourable weather conditions.
Despite relief from rain and cooler temperatures, three infernos still threaten to form a mega blaze on the NSW/Victoria border, leaving a 72-hour window for firefighters to tackle the fire front before temperatures rise again on Thursday.
“We can expect to see a combination of the hot conditions and westerly winds coming out of the centre of the state resulting in probably severe fire danger ratings along the back end of the ranges and in parts of the central west,” RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.
At least sixty homes were destroyed in Saturday’s blazes, taking to 576 the number lost since New Year’s Eve.
The RFS expects hundreds more will be confirmed lost in coming days, as assessment teams who have been kept at bay by flames have been able to reach the hardest-hit towns.
Areas thought to be worst effected included Bundanoon, Wingello, Batlow, Adelong, the Jervis Bay area, Boydtown, Kiah, Wonboyn, Towamba and Cabramurra.
Some homes lost were in the Southern Highlands after a flank of a massive 400,000-hectare fireground stretching as far south as Batemans Bay jumped the Shoalhaven River.
In the far south, Eden residents were able to return to their homes on Sunday as crews continued to battle the Border Fire which has scorched 271,000 hectares since igniting west of Victorian town Mallacoota.
“We are comfortable for people to be in their homes at the moment,” RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers told the ABC.
He said he was content for the community to be given some time to recover, after a “rough” day and night.
“There is an enormous amount of fire in that part of the world, these are not going to go out for some time,” he said.
“We have been dealing with the fires non-stop now for more for five months and I can’t see that changing over the next month.
“It makes you think … just where that will end.”
Fire danger ratings today will be high or low-moderate across much of the state, with only parts of the state’s north experiencing “very high” risk.
The Bureau of Meteorology is expecting some showers to cooler conditions across fire grounds in the state’s south.
“Though not a huge amount, that (rain) should slow down the fires,” duty forecaster Jake Phillips told AAP late on Sunday.
Some early forecasts for later in the week show warmer conditions, with warm northerly winds expected to cross the west on Thursday and reach the east on Friday.
“It doesn’t look as bad as Saturday or New Year’s Eve but it’s definitely something we’ll be watching closely,” Mr Phillips said.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has acknowledged NSW is in “unchartered territory” and can’t pretend the fires are something experienced before.
“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,” she said on Sunday.
Early on Monday, more than 130 bushfires were burning across NSW, including more than 60 uncontained. Two were subject to a watch-and-act alert.
Eighteen people, including three firefighters, have died in the NSW bushfires since October.
At least 1482 homes, 100 facilities and 2339 outbuildings such as sheds have been confirmed destroyed across NSW since July.
Close to 20,000 buildings have been saved.
Showers and cooler temperatures have brought firefighters much needed relief after a weekend of battling severe fire fronts across the state.
However, authorities have warned of a “very concerning” threat that still looms.
David Bruce, Acting Chief Executive Officer at Metropolitan Fire Brigade said the north-east of Corryong, Victoria’s alpine region and through to the Victorian-New South Wales Border is of “grave concern”. “We will be looking to consolidate, put in any fire breaks and look at informing communities to make sure that they’re ready in the event that the fires are close to them,” Mr Bruce said.
He said 110 homes have been confirmed lost, but that number is expected to rise as impact assessments teams gain access to the hardest hit areas today.
A total fire ban has been declared across Kangaroo Island as Country Fire Service (CFS) crews race to quell areas still burning ahead of deteriorating conditions this week.
Communities remain on high alert today with a new Watch and Act alert being issued today for the Ravine bushfire.
The federal government has set up a task force consisting of 80 Australian Defence Force personnel who have now arrived on the island as the state government appointed wildlife official Mike Williams to lead the recovery.
Two lives have been lost with outback pilot Dick Lang, 78, and his 43-year-old son Clayton Lang killed when their car became trapped by flames near Parndana