FIRE AFTERMATH: How we avoided 'Armageddon' 

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BLAZES raged, homes were destroyed, scores of animals were killed and alleged arsonists were detained.

It was bad. But Wednesday could have been so much worse.

After heading to bed on Tuesday night as unbearably hot, gusty winds fanned more than 120 bushfires across NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, Australians could have easily woken to scenes of utter devastation.

Instead, they awoke to something of a miracle: fires had raged and properties were lost, but fears of the full-scale catastrophe everyone had dreaded did not materialise.

However, flames had still managed to scorch an extraordinary 131,000 hectares of land in regional NSW and 9500 hectares in northern Victoria.

Major fires burned near Yass, in south-western NSW, Sussex Inlet, on the state’s south coast, Lithgow, near the iconic Blue Mountains and to the south, near Cooma. Victorian crews worked to contain a grassfire that overnight had claimed homes, including a historic homestead, near Ballarat.

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell said the state was far from out of the woods but suggested months of planning and preparation might have helped avert a virtual Armageddon. The increasingly important role of social media was also credited for getting important information to those who needed it most.

Fairfax Regional Media spent the day sharing compelling stories, pictures and video of the fires and the chaos left in their wake. This information remains below. However, for the latest fire and safety warnings, please use the links to your relevant fire agency at the top and bottom of this page.

1.45pm update: An emergency warning has been issued for a fast-moving grassfire at Wallan, north of Melbourne. 

The fire has already impacted Rowes Lane, and is expected to impact Old Sydney Road and Wallan-Darraweit Road within one hour.

1.20pm update: Speaking from the fireground near Yass today, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell said the fire was still a threat.

“This fire is still alive… it is threatening homes… and there are some very nervous people in this district,” he said.

Mr O’Farrell said the fire may have killed 10,000 sheep, delivering a $1 million blow to landholders.

The state government is consulting their federal counterparts about natural disaster declarations, which would make financial assistance available to landholders who have suffered serious losses.

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the Yass fire was one of 30 around the state still burning out of control.

“There is a very real threat to this fire to more properties, to more of the community, subject to the weather conditions today,” he said.

“We’ve seen significant agricultural losses already tallied up - thousands of hectares of pastures and crop - and stock in the thousands likely to be lost, not to mention the thousands of kilometres of fences.”

Mr Fitzsimmons said the NSW RFS website had recorded 2.3 million page views over the last 24 hours. Some 30,000 Bushfire Survival Plans had also been downloaded, he said.

1.15pm update: A property has been destroyed by the Yarrabin fire in the Cooma Monaro area. It appears the property, possibly a cottage or weekender, was destroyed by yesterday's fire. The RFS has assessment teams in the fire affected areas and have fortunately found no confirmed property loss at Jugiong as first thought.

1pm update: A community meeting will be held in Numeralla, in southern NSW, for residents in the impacted by the Yarrabin fire. Areas impacted include Numeralla, Countegany, Warrens Corner Road and Tuross Road.

The fire is burning in the Kybeyan Valley and is continuing to threaten properties today.

The meeting will be held at 2pm at the Numeralla town hall.

Meantime, NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has toured areas devastated by a bushfire near Yass.

That fire is continuing to burn today 11 kilometres west of Yass, with fire crews undertaking property protection along Childowla Road.

Properties in the Ferndale, Sunnyside, Spring Vale, Wattle Valley, Yowerweema, Katandee, Euralia and Billa Burra Burra areas are advised that the fire may impact within the next two to six hours.

12.20pm update: More than 50 firefighters from the NSW Rural Fire Service and Fire & Rescue NSW, assisted by three bull dozers and three helicopters, are working to contain a fire that has burnt out more than 40 hectare fire burning in an easterly direction between Lithgow and Scenic Hill.

Embers may be blown ahead of the fire, creating spot fires. These spot fires may threaten your home earlier than the predicted main fire front.

The Bells Line of Road is currently open between Lithgow and Clarence.

Elsewhere in NSW, there's good news, with the Sand Hill fire - near Bungendore - downgraded to the lowest RFS warning level. The Kings Highway remains closed between Braidwood and Bungendore.

In Victoria, the CFA will hold a community meeting tonight to provide an update on the Kentbruck-Portland Nelson Road bushfire. 

The meeting will be held at Gorae West in the Mt Richmond Hall, (next door to the Gorae West Fire Station) at 7.00pm.

Cooler conditions have caused the fire to slow, allowing  firefighters the opportunity to begin to bring the fire under control.

11.40am update: The Princes Highway has now reopened at Wandandian, after it was closed yesterday by the Dean's Gap fire.

A reduced speed limit of 60km/h is in place with traffic affected in both directions. Motorists are advised to expect significant delays. 

Turpentine, Wandean and Twelve Mile Roads remain closed. 

There may be intermittent closures of the Princes Highway as the day continues. 

11.15am update: After 24 hours of intense firefighting, RFS crews have contained a bushfire that threatened the town of Tarcutta, near Wagga Wagga.

The blaze has been contained to 1600 hectares.

10.15am update: Photos now up from the Bungendore blaze, which continues to close the Kings Highway today. Click the photo to view the full gallery.

9.30am update: 

9.15am update: Australia's bushfire crisis is getting coverage far and wide, it seems - Canadian astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield has tweeted these shots of the blazes, taken from the International Space Station. No indication of which exact fires, unfortunately.

Photos: CHRIS HADFIELD/NASA

9.10am update: Several fires continue to burn out of control around Tasmania today, despite cooler conditions and some rain.

The Forcett fire, which has burnt more than 22000 hectares, continues to pose the biggest threat, with a Watch and Act warning current for people in the Kellevie, Bream Creek, Eaglehawk Neck, Pirates Bay, Doo Town, Old Jetty Road and Blowhole Road areas.

Fires at Curries River and Holwell, in the north, Mathinna in the north-east and Montumana in the north-west also continue to burn, although there is no threat to life or property.

8.50am update: Some amazing and moving photos from bushfires around Australia, including this one of the Chepstowe fire near Ballarat from The Age photographer Justin McManus. Click the photo to see the full gallery.

7.30am update:  NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has announced he will visit fire-ravaged areas near Yass, Wagga Wagga and Harden this morning.

Fire crews are this morning battling to contain a fire at Lithgow, in the central tablelands.

One helicopter and several bulldozers have been deployed to the area to try and stop the fire front, which is at this stage moving rapidly up towards the old air strip that runs adjacent to the Bells Line Of Road. As a result, Bells Line Of Road is closed.

7.10am update: Of the 11 fires burning in Tasmania, only the Forcett fire is rated Watch and Act, with the 22,420 hectare blaze still out of control.

6.40am update: Residents near Ballarat face an anxious wait today, after a large fire tore through Chepstowe, destroying at least two and possibly up to 20 homes.

Elsewhere, cooler conditions and light rain in some areas has allowed containment work to be undertaken on many fires.

All fires in Victoria are currently at advice level.

6.15am update: All fires in NSW are classified Watch and Act or lower this morning, after a southerly change gave firefighters a welcome reprieve in the early hours.

The southerly change has brought cooler conditions however, the threat to property will remain.

The Princes Highway remains closed at Bendalong Road in the south and Wandean Road in the north.  It is too late for people to leave the area.

Near Yass, a grass/scrub fire is burning south of Bookham and Bowning, in the Carrolls Ridge and Black Range Road areas.

Fire crews are undertaking property protection along Childowla Road Talmoa and Sutton Range Road Carrolls Ridge, at various remote rural properties.

The fire has crossed Burrinjuck Road and Black Range road with both roads closed.

The fire is likely to move towards the Dangelong, Numeralla and Countegany areas throughout today, under predicted weather conditions. People in these areas should stay aware of the fire activity.

The Tarcutta fire, which threatened properties yesterday, continues to do so today, with isolated rural properties to the north west of Tarcutta township along the Mates Gully Road still under threat from this fire.

The Sand Hills fire, east of Bungendore in the state's south, continued to burn in the area of the Kings Highway near Timber Hills Road as of 2am.

Video:

At the fire front with NSW Rural Fire Service volunteers as they struggle to prevent an out of control blaze cutting the main highway between Canberra and the coast.

Alerts and Information

NSW

Where to find information

NSW Rural Fire Service

Facebook - NSW Rural Fire Service

Twitter - NSW Rural Fire Service

Current incidents in NSW according to the RFS - click each pin to view incident

VICTORIA

Where to find information

Country Fire Authority (Victoria)

Facebook - Country Fire Authority (Victoria)

Twitter - Country Fire Authority (Victoria)

TASMANIA

Where to find information

Tasmania Fire Service

Facebook - Tasmania Fire Service

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Where to find information

South Australian Country Fire Service

Facebook - South Australian Country Fire Service

Twitter - South Australian Country Fire Service

QUEENSLAND AND NORTHERN TERRITORY

Where to find information

Queensland Rural Fire Service

Facebook - Queensland Fire and Rescue

Twitter - Queensland Fire and Rescue

Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

Where to find information

ACT Rural Fire Service

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