A STATE of emergency has been declared in NSW ahead of catastrophic bushfire danger risk on Tuesday.
Five people have lost their lives during the bushfire danger period so far this year and on Monday the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government would take critical steps to protect people from bushfires.
Worsening bushfire conditions are expected during the coming week, with a total fire ban in place for NSW on Monday and Tuesday.
During a State of Emergency declaration, the first since October 2013, powers will be transferred from the NSW Government to the NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner.
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These powers include the ability to:
- Direct any government agency to conduct or refrain from conducting its functions;
- Control and coordinate the allocation of government resources;
- Evacuate people from property within the declared area;
- Close roads and thoroughfares to traffic;
- Pull down or shore up infrastructure at risk of collapse;
- Order the shutdown of essential utilities in the declared area including electricity, gas, oil and water; and
- Enter or take possession of property in the course of the emergency response.
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"Our state has already been hit by some of the most devastating bushfires we have ever seen, with three lives lost and more than 150 structures destroyed," Ms Berejiklian said.
"With catastrophic weather conditions predicted for this week, particularly Tuesday with hot weather and strong winds, I have decided to take the Commissioner's advice and make this declaration.
"It will ensure our state is best placed to respond to the predicted fire conditions."
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NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the risk from bushfire this was was "very real" and new fires could ignite from ones that had been brought under control.
"It'll only take one ember from that burnt area to go into an unburned area and then we're off and running," he said.
During the past week, bushfires in NSW have been spotting 12 kilometres ahead of the main fire front and igniting new fires, Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.
"Fires are starting extremely quickly," he said. "There is a profound risk across a broad geographical area.
"We will not stop in our endeavours to do the very best we can."
Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said the state of emergency was an appropriate decision and sends a strong message that the directions of the NSW RFS to the public during this period should be swiftly followed.
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"Today's announcement shows the NSW Government will always put the safety of the people in this State ahead of anything else. Our bush firefighters will be empowered during this period to ensure their directions are followed and community safety can be enhanced."
The declaration is valid for a period of seven days from today.