The achilles heel of Sydney's vulnerability to fires is especially from the north west where fire can reach through National Park gullies right down to the city.
Today it started to turn for the worse, just after we'd had some respite for the New Year celebrations. Here's tonight's news report:
19:10 AEDST Tue 1 Jan 2002
NSW bushfire crisis takes a turn for the worst
A large bushfire in suburban parkland threatened up to 200 homes in Sydney's north today as soaring temperatures and fierce winds fanned blazes around NSW.
The new year brought no relief for firefighters who have battled blazes ringing Sydney since Christmas Eve but today's fire at Pennant Hills was the first to penetrate the suburbs.
"This is something we have been hoping we might actually avoid but it is not to be so," NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Phil Koperberg said.
Elsewhere there were evacuations in the Hawkesbury area to the north of Sydney and at Sussex Inlet near Nowra.
A large fire was also burning south of Canberra on the NSW border, and firefighters were moved out of the Wollemi National Park near Singleton after a blaze breached its containment lines.
Although no properties had been lost today, firefighters faced the worst weather conditions since the bushfire crisis began nine days ago.
Similar conditions were forecast for tomorrow and authorities warned people living near bushland to be prepared.
Mr Koperberg said residents should remain calm and not evacuate unless asked by police or emergency personnel.
The first fire to penetrate the city itself in the Pennant Hills National Park reached the boundary hedge of North Epping Bowling Club in Sydney's north-west but was being held at North Epping Oval, NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman John Winter said.
Mr Winter said there was a chance this new blaze might cross the Lane Cove River into South Turramurra and houses were under threat.
The cause of the blaze that began around 2pm was not known at this stage.
"Our concern with this fire is that the entire area is an urban interface area. Obviously, properties are built right up to the bushland area," Mr Winter said.
A local resident said the smoke was thick and choking as helicopters worked overhead to drop water on the blaze.
"There's a lot of thick black smoke as well as orange haze ... you can see that glowing amongst it all," she said.
"The smoke across the road is billowing across the top of the houses."
Police warned some residents in nearby streets to hose down their houses and prepare for evacuations.
Mr Koperberg said emergency personnel were also moving a number of people out of some parts of Kurrajong Heights though at this stage no property had been lost.
"But the fire behaviour is of such magnitude not to rule it out," he said.
Mr Koperberg also said the Shoalhaven fires near Nowra had breached containment lines and there was concern for the township of Sussex Inlet.
Emergency Services Minister Bob Debus said the weather predictions for today had come true.
"The wind speeds are high and increasing through many parts of the fire-affected areas," he said.
"Temperatures are as high as has been predicted and in some cases higher."
Commissioner Koperberg said the fresh to strong north-westerly winds had wind gusts of up to 80kph.
Ozziepost (fire-fighters saluting class)