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Bushfire losses still rising as NSW prepares for worse

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Insured losses from the NSW and Queensland bushfire catastrophe have run up to at least $182.6 million from 2306 claims lodged, the Insurance Council of Australia says today.

The figures are likely to rise as fire conditions in NSW are predicted to worsen in the coming days.

Up to 20 homes may have been destroyed by the Green Wattle Creek fire, according to the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS). The uncontained emergency warning level blaze is about 15km south-west of the Warragamba Dam in the Blue Mountains National Park.

The fire service says there are about 100 blazes burning across the state this morning, including the Green Wattle Creek inferno, which claimed the lives of two firefighters last night after their vehicle collided with a tree.

Temperatures in NSW are forecast to rise tomorrow with fire dangers expected to peak as well, the Bureau of Meteorology says.

“We know it’s going to be a tough and difficult day. It’s going to be another dangerous day [tomorrow],” RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said this morning.

Fire crews are using the milder conditions today to prepare.

Mr Fitzsimmons says the work involves back-burning and implementing containment strategies “in an attempt to slow the advance of these fires tomorrow and to secure a protection around properties as much as we can in anticipation of expected fire spread tomorrow”.

The NSW Government yesterday announced a seven-day state of emergency, its second in as many weeks, to deal with the fire threat.

The emergency declaration gives the RFS Commissioner the “extraordinary powers” to direct government resources to protect at-risk communities. The powers also extend to shutting down essential utilities.

“We don’t take the decision to call a state of emergency lightly and that’s why we took that decision yesterday morning, knowing full well that we will be facing a number of days of unpredictable weather conditions, unpredictable fire conditions,” Premier Gladys Berejiklian said this morning.