CREWS are bracing for severe fire conditions on Thursday with a total fire ban in place across the entire New England North West region.
A severe fire danger is forecast for the New England and Northern Slopes, which covers Tamworth, Gunnedah and much of the Northern Tablelands councils, because of hot and gusty conditions that are expected to sweep through.
The Moree, Narrabri, Walgett and Warrumbungles area has a very high fire danger predicted.
The RFS issued the fire bans to prevent the worst from occurring with exhausted crews already stretched after two months of fighting fires in the Glen Innes, Tenterfield, Nundle and Mount Kaputar areas.
Strike teams from Tasmania and Western Australia, as well as other parts of the state, are already on the fireground around the region to black out blazes that have been burning.
The RFS is urging locals to remain vigilant on Thursday, ensure they have a bushfire survival plan in place, and warned harvest operators of the heightened risk, so they monitor the conditions.
As part of the ban, no fires can be lit in the open, and all fire permits are suspended between midnight Wednesday and midnight Thursday.
The RFS said electric barbeques may be used, provided certain conditions are met.
All state forests closed
All State forests from the north of Sydney to the Queensland border and the northern tablelands will be closed to the public on Thursday, Friday and Saturday due to the very high to extreme fire danger over the coming days.
Forestry Corporation said the closure applies to all state forests in the following Rural Fire Service zones:
- Greater Sydney Region
- Far North Coast
- North Coast
- Greater Hunter
- New England
- Northern Slopes
Forestry Corporation of NSW's Senior Manager Forest Stewardship Kathy Lyons asked the community to stay out of these state forests due to the very high risk to public safety.
"We are expecting very high to severe and extreme fire weather over the next three days and there are already extensive fires across the north coast and tablelands. Fires are likely to be uncontrollable in these conditions," Ms Lyons said.
"All State forests from the north of Sydney to the Queensland border and the northern tablelands will be closed for the next three days due to the high fire danger."
Firefighters are on standby in the North West, New England and Northern Slopes should a blaze break out.
The Oxley Highway between Bago and Walcha remains closed as crews continue "the significant amount of work" to remove fallen trees and damaged guard rails.
The highway, which was shut last week when fires raged, will remain closed until at least Friday.
The diversions in place add an extra 2-3 hours travel time for motorists.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Gwydir Highway was closed in both directions between Tindal Road at Eatonsville, west of Grafton, and Bald Nob Road at Bald Nob, east of Glen Innes, due to a back-burning operation.
The RMS said motorists are advised to avoid the area, and anyone who needed to travel can consider using the Bruxner Highway, Armidale Road or Waterfall Way instead.
A spokesperson said the closure was likely to have an impact on cattle transport between the New England and Casion on Thursday for store sales.
The RMS said the diversions are not suitable for B-doubles which will need to travel via Hexham, or into Queensland via the New England Highway and the Cunningham Highway.