- A manhunt is underway for vile arsonists who started several fires on Saturday
- Fires at Georges Hall and Badgerys Creek in Sydney were started deliberately
- The flames risked destroying more than 100 homes on the city’s hottest day ever
- A special strike force has since been set up to investigate and find the culprits
Horrific fires which threatened to destroy 100 homes in Sydney’s west were started deliberately by cruel arsonists, locals said.
A police manhunt is underway to find the culprits who allegedly started two blazes in Georges Hall and Badgerys Creek.
It comes as a massive bushfire in Sydney’s southwestern outskirts is threatening to break containment lines and reach suburban areas.
Burning just metres from homes, residents grabbed hoses to desperately keep the fires at bay as they waited for firefighters to arrive.
A special strike force was set up to find the arsonists before they can cause more damage in the fire-ravaged state.
Inspector Kernin Lambert from Fire & Rescue NSW told 7News: ‘[There was] very, very rapid fire spread.
‘It spread on various fronts and it’s impacting a number of streets.
‘At one stage we had very serious fears that 100 houses were coming directly under attack.’
Meanwhile, fire crews have been working around the clock to contain the 264,000-hectare blaze that has been burning through Green Wattle Creek, in the Blue Mountains.
The monster blaze is also threatening to affect thousands living in Sydney’s west.
NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the bushfire is a priority for Saturday as 49C heat and high winds could see fires spread wider than ever before.
‘There is potential for the fire to break out, cross the (Warragamba) dam and move into the western suburbs of Sydney,’ he told reporters on Saturday morning.
‘It has the potential to come out into more populated areas this afternoon.’
Sydney’s southwestern suburbs including, The Oaks, Mowbray Park, and Picton could be at risk if the fire crosses over.
‘Crews have been doing extraordinary work with backburning and the use of aircraft and machinery on the ground to try and lock that in,’ Commissioner Fitzsimmons added.
‘That’s one of our focus fires, of course, but I would say as a broader message be alert, be focused on any new fires today.’
Mr Fitzsimmons called on residents and tourists in the path of the fires to evacuate as soon as possible.
‘Our message has been to make sure you leave yesterday,’ he said.
‘Leaving it until today is cutting it fine. The sooner you make that decision the better and I would say do it now. Don’t leave it any longer because the window will shrink and will shrink very quickly.’
More than 140 fires are burning in NSW, with around 60 uncontained.
Temperatures in parts of the state are expected to soar in the mid-40s Celsius (about 113 Fahrenheit) amid strong winds and low humidity.
The Bureau of Meteorology said conditions were already deteriorating Saturday morning.
‘We are getting high temperatures across most of (NSW), including Sydney as well as western and southern parts of the states, as predicted,’ the bureau said.