IT was the day authorities had predicted NSW would burn – and it did.
More than 140 fires were ablaze across the state, up to 40 of them uncontained at any one time, destroying more than 55,000 hectares of land.
At times, the full-scale catastrophe everyone had feared looked like it could be unleashed, as homes were threatened and 1400 heroic firefighters battled to prevent the flames engulfing townships as temperatures soared into the mid-40s.
But, by 10pm last night, there had been no lives lost and only one home destroyed, a property in the village of Jugiong in the Riverina.
In Victoria, two homes have been destroyed and two people injured in a bushfire at Ballarat as the state also battles fires in its north and south-west.
Despite temperatures above 40 degrees and westerly winds in the Hunter, the region avoided the danger, with only a handful of small blazes reported.
Premier Barry O’Farrell said NSW was a long way from being out of the woods, but it seemed there was private confidence at Rural Fire Service headquarters that months of planning and preparation may have averted a virtual armageddon despite horrendous conditions in some areas, not seen for close to a decade.
Australia had a national average maximum temperature of 40.33 degrees on Monday – breaking a record that has stood for 40 years. It probably only lasted until yesterday with a new record likely to have been set, the weather bureau said.
A cooler day is tipped today but temperatures in the Hunter Valley could reach 44 degrees on Saturday.
‘‘The current heatwave – in terms of its duration, its intensity and its extent – is now unprecedented in our records,’’ said the Bureau of Meteorology’s manager of climate monitoring and prediction, David Jones.