PICTURES

Australia firefighters brace for horror day in bushfire disaster

Local resident Delia Smith (left) reacts as she inspects her family's house with her husband Colin after it was destroyed by a bushfire in the Blue Mountains suburb of Winmalee, located around 70km west of Sydney, on Oct 21, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Local resident Delia Smith (left) reacts as she inspects her family's house with her husband Colin after it was destroyed by a bushfire in the Blue Mountains suburb of Winmalee, located around 70km west of Sydney, on Oct 21, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Local resident Alan Seaman walks through the remains of his home that was destroyed by a bushfire in the Blue Mountains suburb of Winmalee, located around 70km west of Sydney, on Oct 21, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Local resident Alan Seaman walks through the remains of his home that was destroyed by a bushfire in the Blue Mountains suburb of Winmalee, located around 70km west of Sydney, on Oct 21, 2013. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A firefighter hoses up high in the trees to control flames near houses at Bilpin, 75km west of Sydney in Australia, on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013. -- PHOTO: AP 
A firefighter hoses up high in the trees to control flames near houses at Bilpin, 75km west of Sydney in Australia, on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013. -- PHOTO: AP 
Jennifer Schweinsberg and her son David take photos of the ruins of their family home in Sunny Ridge Drive in Winmalee 65km from Sydney in Australia, on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 after a wildfire swept through the street burning their home and several ot
Jennifer Schweinsberg and her son David take photos of the ruins of their family home in Sunny Ridge Drive in Winmalee 65km from Sydney in Australia, on Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 after a wildfire swept through the street burning their home and several others on Oct 18, 2013. -- PHOTO: AP 
A firefighter monitors a back burn near Mount Victoria in the Blue Mountains on Oct 21, 2013, as volunteer fire brigades race to tame an enormous blaze, with officials warning it could merge with others to create a "mega-fire" if weather conditions w
A firefighter monitors a back burn near Mount Victoria in the Blue Mountains on Oct 21, 2013, as volunteer fire brigades race to tame an enormous blaze, with officials warning it could merge with others to create a "mega-fire" if weather conditions worsen. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Firefighters work to contain fires from a resident's backyard at Faulconbridge in the Blue Mountains on Oct 22, 2013. Firefighters in Australia braced for hot, dry winds and soaring temperatures on Wednesday with lightning also posing a problem as th
Firefighters work to contain fires from a resident's backyard at Faulconbridge in the Blue Mountains on Oct 22, 2013. Firefighters in Australia braced for hot, dry winds and soaring temperatures on Wednesday with lightning also posing a problem as they battle to prevent a week-long bushfire disaster getting worse. -- PHOTO: AFP

BELL, Australia (AFP) - Firefighters in Australia braced for hot, dry winds and soaring temperatures on Wednesday with lightning also posing a problem as they battle to prevent a week-long bushfire disaster getting worse.

As the crisis entered its seventh day, 59 fires were raging across the state of New South Wales with 19 of them uncontained and warnings again issued for people to leave their homes or be extra vigilant.

"On days like today, minutes really matter," NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said, with the focus again on the Blue Mountains region west of Sydney, a popular tourist area home to 75,000 people where three huge infernos have been out of control for days.

So far more than 120,000ha of land has been burnt across the state and more than 200 homes destroyed. But only one person has died as residents heed advice to either flee or head to evacuation centres.

Temperatures were heading towards the mid-30 deg C range on Wednesday and coupled with low humidity and forecast wind gusts of up to 100kmh, the fire chief called the conditions "as bad as it gets".

Drizzle fell overnight but it only hampered the mostly volunteer crews fighting the blazes.

"Whilst that is some welcome relief in terms of moderating the current fire behaviour, it has compromised considerably the ability to continue with the backburning operations that were planned throughout the evening," Mr Fitzsimmons said.

Backburning is a tactic aimed at creating firebreaks to control the path of blazes.

This has been a key focus of operations ahead of Wednesday, which authorities fear will be the toughest day so far.

The light rain meant many firefighters had to be withdrawn from forest trails due to fears that their trucks could get bogged down.

Much of the dampness has already dried out and Fitzsimmons said: "It's only a matter of hours before we see a flare up of fire activity." While the Blue Mountains is the main concern, fires are breaking out across the vast state with reports from Broken Hill in the north of lightning strikes sparking new blazes.

"What can't be denied is there is something like 1,600km of fire perimeter that we're dealing with. Now, that's all active to one degree or another," said Fitzsimmons.

"Noone knows where that fire activity will stir up under today's weather." NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell drove home the message, saying regardless of what happens on Wednesday "we're not out of the woods yet".

"We hope of course that today's conditions, today's potential events do not occur. As the commissioner has said repeatedly, we've planned for the worst, but we continue to hope for the best," he said.