AS FAMILIES throughout southern NSW braced to face five major bushfires tonight, farmers were already being hit by the devastating reality of what happens when an out-of control blaze shows no mercy.
Looking at clear skies out the window of her Jugiong cafe, Jenny Polimeni said it was hard to imagine the misery experienced by farmers and firefighters just 10kms down the road.
Late Tuesday a wildfire, thought to have been sparked by machinery, tore through thousands of hectares of rich farming land between Jugiong and Yass.
While the town of Jugiong and the families who call it home were spared, up to 90%of livestock is believed to have been wiped out.
Ms Polimeni's husband was one of hundreds of locals who worked through the night to try and save farms and stock.
As they returned to town with their stories, the community banded together, meals were cooked for the local fire brigade and stock feed was taken out to properties where the few lucky sheep and cattle had survived.
Ms Polimeni said the region was strong, but tough times were ahead.
Her friends lost 1000 sheep at one small farm and she estimated dozens of properties, each with at least 5000 cattle, had been destroyed.
"That's what today has been about - finding out through friends on farms about stock loss," she said
"My husband has been shooting sheep all day.
"They are finding that with some of the sheep that lived, their feet are so badly burned that they are just dropping off - it's horrible".
The fire threat to Jugiong had eased on Wednesday but the out-of-control blaze was headed towards Yass.
That fire and two others, one near Shoalhaven and another near Cooma, were causing the most concern.
Forced evacuations had not begun but property owners in those areas were on high alert.
Only one property had been lost.
It was a different story in the Victorian town of Carngham the night before when residents were told to flee after an aggressive grassfire changed direction.
Eight properties, including a 150-year-old homestead, were destroyed.
Ballarat's Emma Nester and her husband had little sleep as they anxiously waited for news about family members living in the area.
Their parents were evacuated from their home about 6pm and friend Kanzas Jones-Bush told of how a helicopter had landed on her property to combat flames licking the boundary line just 400m from her house.
Ms Nester said her family was able to stay safe thanks to the efforts of rural firies and constant updates on community radio.
"This fire grew to 10,000ha in no time," she said
"It was a good reality check about how important it is to be fire ready".
Further south, thousands remain displaced in Tasmania where more than 250 homes were destroyed and many coastal towns have been evacuated.
Red Cross Executive Director Ian Burke described the scenes on the state's eastern peninsula as "truly devastating" and said the communities affected would need "significant, long-term support in their recovery".
NSW FIRE UPDATES (Wednesday, 5pm)
- More than 140 fires still burning across NSW.
- At least 30 fires remain out of control.
- Evacuation centres set up at Bega, Sussex Inlet and Wagga Wagga.
- More than 550,000ha burnt.
- Residents in five regions, including Nowra, Yass and Cooma, placed on "high alert"
- More than 10,000 livestock lost
- One property at Jugiong, near the ACT border destroyed, dozens more under threat.
- Two fires being treated as suspicious.
- Two men including a fire-fighter treated for burns in hospital but the death toll remains at zero.
Major fires still burning out of control:
Deans Gap - Shoalhaven: Bushfire with a 44km perimeter has burnt out more than 4000ha. An out-of-control fire was still burning in the North West on Wednesday and further crews are working to hold the fire at Cassia.
Cobbler Rd - Yass: The grass fire travelling in easterly direction 11km west of Yass, near the ACT, border burnt out more than 10,000ha on Wednesday was expected to impact dozens of rural properties by nightfall. Fire crews protecting property boundaries were being assisted by water bombing aircraft.
Yarrabin - Cooma: Properties near Cooma are under threat due to an out-of-control bushfire in the Kybean Valley. Firefighters were working to protect homes where embers were already falling on Wednesday night.
Badgerys Point Lookout - Goulburn: Scrub fire 20ha wide crossed containment lines on Wednesday night.
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