AN UNCONFIRMED number of homes have been lost as bushfires erupted in the Kurri Kurri region.
Residents have been told to evacuate or take shelter and more than 400 firefighters are battling two major blazes, trying desperately to save what properties they can.
The Hunter Expressway has been closed and a third fire near Lake Macquarie is now threatening to close the M1.
The Kurri Kurri fire has since been downgraded to "watch and act" with a NSW Rural Fire Service spokesperson saying that conditions were easing.
Residents in the Heddon Greta area were today sent emergency phone messages as a fire around McLeod Rd, Kurri Kurri moved north towards Wentworth swamp.
The fire is one of several in the area and this afternoon it was threatening properties, the NSW RFS said.
A second fire in the region is burning between Hart Rd in Weston and Northcote St in Kurri Kurri.
A Fire and Rescue NSW spokesperson said they were protecting about 60 people who are sheltering at Kurri Kurri TAFE.
The RFS said firefighters battling both blazes are being assisted by waterbombing aircraft.
Breaking: Fire has impacted property in Kurri Kurri. Emergency Warning in place. pic.twitter.com/pHzNTSGNOJ— Shannon Carr (@ShannonCarr_10) January 18, 2017
Residents should follow their Bush Fire Survival Plan or, if they don't have one, decide what they will do if the situation changes.
Leaving early is the safest option, the RFS said.
The Hunter Expressway is closed between John Renshaw Drive and Wine Country Drive.
Motorists are being urged to use the New England Highway instead.
"Crews are focusing on protecting life and property," a statement from the Rural Fire Service said.
"If the fire impacts on your property, seek shelter ... protect yourself from the heat of the fire," is the message from emergency crews to residents who find themselves caught in the bush fire's path.
The strong southerly winds, which have brought such relief to sweltering Sydney after a prolonged heatwave, are causing havoc.
Meanwhile, volunteer firefighters battled impossible conditions as fires ripped through farmland near Canberra today.
One home was lost near Tarago - that of local hotel owner Richard Graham - in a fire that tore through more than 3300 ha and killed hundreds of livestock north of the nation's capital.
Just as it came under control yesterday afternoon a spotfire at nearby Sutton spread via furious northewesterly winds, drawing the most extreme fire warning from the RFS.
Dozens of local fire crews rushed across the valley as the state's volunteer reserves felt the strain.
Stockmen desperately tried to get feed to flocks in isolated corners of their black, decimated paddocks.
Six waterbombing choppers were helping volunteer and ACT firefighters as the 400 ha blaze moved quickly east towards the town of Sutton.
Even the late southerly change, due around 8pm, was not going to ease the threat of damage to homes, with other properties to north expected to bare the fire front.
The showground at Goulburn was being used as a refuge for horses threatened by fire.
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