10.50pm: POLICE have spoken to two eight-year-old boys allegedly seen trying to start fires in East Maitland on Wednesday.
Just after 6.30pm police were called to vacant land in Quarry Street where they found the two children with a lighter, which was later found not to work.
Police say the boys were seen attempting to set fire to dried leaves and grass they had collected.
Officers have spoken to their parents.
The boys were left in the care of their parents and officers completed child at risk notifications due to their actions.
Due to their age no charges can be laid.
9.30pm: ASHLEIGH GLEESON reports: The RFS has downgraded the Redhead-Dudley fire to watch and act due to easing weather conditions.
The south easterly change will continue to create challenging conditions for firefighters in the Dudley and Redhead areas.
RFS spokesman Andrew Luke said all the areas around the fire were potentially at risk from wind changes, combined with the low humidity.
"The southerly change that is coming through has the potential to move the fire forward," he said.
"Crews are undertaking property protection around the area.
"Currently crews are working right around the fire at the moment."
The RFS reports that more than 70 firefighters are still fighting the fire that has burnt out 89 hectares.
9.02pm: The RFS reports a south-east wind change has hit the Redhead-Dudley fireground.
Crews are undertaking backburning operations and smoke may affect areas around Bennetts Green Industrial Area, Bulls Garden Road and streets in and around Whitebridge, in particular Station Street, Fenwick Street and Dudley Road.
More than 70 firefighters are working in the area. The fire has burnt out 89 hectares.
7.55pm: The RFS reports that crews have been sent to Dudley and Redhead to deal with reported spot fires.
There are concerns the fire could flare up if the wind turns to the south-east.
Meanwhile, Ausgrid reports power restored to all homes that were affected at the Minmi fire.
7.30pm: The RFS advises that an Emergency Warning remains in place for the Redhead-Dudley fire. The service has also release a satellite thermal image of the fire as it was at 5pm.
6.50pm: The RFS reports the Pacific Highway is open in both directions at Raymond Terrace.
6.30pm: Ausgrid reports power has been returned to 1200 homes in parts of Dudley and Whitebridge. Crews are waiting for safe access to restore power to about 100 remaining customers.
5.55pm: The RFS has downgraded the Minmi fire to "Watch and Act" status.The fire remains uncontained and is burning in the area of Stockrington Road and still heading towards Minmi.
Crews are also working around homes in Stockrington Road, Dog Hole Road and Seahampton Road. The M1 is now open southbound.
An RFS Emergency Warning remains in place for the fire burning out of control near Dudley and Redhead.
5.45pm: RFS reports firecrews on scene at a fire in Elizabeth Street, Raymond Terrace. The northbound lane of the Pacific Highway is closed with traffic being diverted around Masonite Road and Adelaide Street.
5.40pm: Matt Carr in Minmi reports: Firefighters remain at Minmi Sportsground to protect the town if fire crosses the M1.
Crews from Wallsend, Budgewoi and Pearl Beach are on scene.
Salvation Army volunteers from Gosford are preparing meals for the crews as residents settle in to wait.
Gaylee Hodgins and daughter Jessanie, 20, fled the suburb around midday.
Ms Hodgins said onlookers had made their way into the area early and had slowed her leaving.
"All I could think was we live here, we are trying to get out and you are just sightseeing," she said.
Ms Hodgins and husband Mark returned later in the day but we're unsure if the risk had passed.
Mr Hodgins said he was grateful the SMS alerts had reached his wife while he was in Sandgate.
"It's good to see all the systems work," he said.
Residents dotted the street, some in plastic chairs and many others drinking beer or water in the heat.
Minmi Cellars manager Darren Wilson said he had served a constant stream of customers seeking ice and cold drinks on Wednesday.
"Some of them are worrying a lot worse than others," Mr Wilson said.
5.10pm: Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell reports that evacuation centres have been set up at Redhead Bowling Club, Redhead Surf Club and Charlestown Leagues Club.
5.00pm: Matt Kelly on the scene at the Dudley/Redhead fire. He reports that residents are evacuating Boundary Street, Dudley, with the fire only 300metres from homes.
Others were on their roofs armed with garden hoses preparing to douse any falling embers.
Resident Susan Denholm and her son Linden were among those choosing to evacuate.
"The embers are starting to come really close to our house," Ms Denholm said,
"We stayed as long as we could but it is time to leave.
"We have taken the advice of RFS and are going to a relative's place."
Station commander Glen Groves said firecrews were coming from as far away as the Central Coast.
"It is of major concern," Mr Groves said. "The main priority now is protecting property."
Dudley Public School Principal Peter Adams said students were sent home at 2.45pm.
"We'd been watching the smoke since 2pm coming from Redhead and decided it wasn't safe to keep kids there anymore."
4.34pm: Ausgrid reports power is out to 1300 homes in parts of Dudley and Whitebridge because of fire. Crews hope to restore power to most soon.
4.19pm: RFS reports: The Redhead fire has crossed Redhead Road and is moving in an easterly direction between Dudley and Redhead, through the Awabakal Nature Reserve towards the coast.
There are reports of possible spot fires in Dudley. Crews are dealing with any new outbreaks.
More than 70 firefighters are working in the area.
Fifteen children remain in the hall of the Redhead Public School. They are all fine and in a safe location. Parents of these children should not try to pick them up due to fire activity on local roads.
4.00pm: Parents are being urged not to pick their children up from Redhead School due to the fire risk on the roads.The children were safe and well in the school hall, the RFS said.
3.45pm: MATT CARR reports: FIREFIGHTERS are based at Minmi Sportsground amid concerns the Stockrington fire may cross the M1 (formerly F3).
About seven fire crews remain on scene in Minmi, with several familiarizing themselves with the suburb in case it comes under direct threat.
Roughly six crews left the area about 3pm to join firefighters battling a blaze near Redhead.
Lifelong Minmi resident Cheryl Peterson, whose house stands opposite the football ground where firefighters gathered on Wednesday afternoon, said conditions were among the worst she had seen in the bush-flanked suburb.
"I've had goosebumps since I heard," she said.
"1994 was the last one but it wasn't this bad."
Neighbour Terry Saville, 62, said bushland between the town and the M1 Freeway had grown thicker in the 19 years since the last fire.
"It's been a long time," Mr Saville said.
"I've been dreading it really."
NSW rural fire service group officer Stuart Farleigh said crews were on both sides of the M1 to stop flames crossing the highway.
3.00pm: The RFS has issued an emergency warning for a fire at Gateshead.
The service said a fire is burning west of Dudley and has crossed Oakdale Road.
The fire is burning in a south-easterly direction towards Dudley and Redhead.
Firefighters and aircraft are working in the area.
Residents in the area of Dudley or Redhead are advised to seek shelter as the fire impacts and protect themselves from the heat of the fire.
The M1 Pacific Motorway (F3) is now closed in both directions between Beresfield and Seahampton.
The Motorway is closed northbound at George Booth Drive in Seahampton and southbound is closed at the John Renshaw Drive roundabout in Beresfield.
Southbound motorists wanting to access the Motorway are advised to use Maitland Road, Wallsend Road and Newcastle Link Road.
Motorists travelling in both directions are advised to avoid all non-essential travel as the situation continues to change quickly.
Southbound lanes of M1 now closed at John Renshaw Dr Beresfield. Diversions in place.
M1/F3 now completely closed due to Minmi bushfire
Fire moving in south easterly direction. Minmi should prepare for ember attack, could jump M1 & impact streets.
All northbound lanes of the Pacific Motorway (M1/F3) are closed at Newcastle Link Road. Motorists should divert through Cameron Park.
The NSW RFS advises that people in Minmi should follow their survival plan and, if the plan is to leave, they should leave now if the path is clear.
Children from Minmi Public School on Stockrington Road, Minmi, are relocated to the community centre.
An emergency warning has just been issued for the Stockrington fire at Minmi.
An alert message is being sent to phones in the area, and residents are warned to take shelter.
Crews are working around homes in Stockrington Rd, Dog Hole Rd and Seahampton Road.
The fire is west of the M1 Motorway, and may threaten that road north of the Newcastle Link Road Interchange.
A new Watch and Act warning has been issued for a fire at Minmi, north of Newcastle.
The NSW RFS advises that crews are working near properties towards the end of Stockrington Road, Minmi, and that smoke may be visible from the M1/F3.