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NSW: Bushfires burn at Mt Kuring-Gai and NSW military sites

15 Jan 2009 3:54 PM

SYDNEY, Jan 15 AAP - A bushfire in northern Sydney is threatening more than a dozen factories and has been declared an emergency, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) says.

The blaze is burning at the rear of a factory complex on Gundah Road at Mount Kuring-Gai and workers from 15 factories have already been evacuated.

It was detected about 1.30pm (AEDT), just one hour after the RFS declared a total fire ban in Sydney due to scorching temperature and hot, dry winds.

"Firefighters have been doing property protection at the rear of one of the factories, with embers blowing over that complex," an RFS spokesman said.

"We've done that simply because of the potential risk in that area."

Twenty ground crews and two aerial water-bombers were battling the blaze and motorists on the Pacific Highway and the F3 were advised to drive cautiously in the area due to a large amount of smoke.

Firefighters were also battling two bushfires on military sites elsewhere in the state.

A fire at a Singleton army firing range had burnt 400 hectares, while another at a Richmond Valley bombing range had ravaged 10 hectares.

While both were "delicate" jobs, there had not been any explosions from on-site munitions, the RFS spokesmen said.

A small grass fire at Penrith earlier on Thursday has been extinguished.

Cooler weather and storms expected to hit Sydney later on Thursday were not yet helping firefighters and may instead hinder their work if it becomes windy.

Crews and aircraft were also on standby to deal with spot fires caused by possible lightning, the spokesman said.

A total fire ban has been put in place across Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle as temperatures soar throughout NSW.

The RFS had placed the ban on lighting fires in the open in the greater Sydney and Hunter regions, Illawarra/Shoalhaven and the southern ranges.

The bans were put in place at 12.30pm (AEDT) until midnight on Thursday.

Temperatures have topped 40 degrees celsius in western Sydney, with coastal areas sweltering in the high 30s.

Much of NSW is now under total fire bans, with bans declared last night over large swathes of the state's west and south.