Favourable conditions have seen the number of active fires decrease by nearly a third since Wednesday, in one of the biggest single-day drops since the fire season began.
At the end of Wednesday, there were 62 active fires around NSW and the ACT – as of 7pm Thursday, there are 42.
Rural Fire Service spokeswoman Angela Burford said that over the past 48 hours, there had been some back burning work where conditions have allowed, with crews working alongside aircraft and heavy plant vehicles, specifically in the South Coast and Snowy-Monaro regions.
“We’ve got a lot done and obviously now, we hope for rain,” Ms Burford said.
The roughly 1200 firefighters across the state “achieved a lot of progress” on Thursday, whether that’s been slowing the spread of fires, or containing fire fronts.
Currently, no fires are above advice level, and just two of the 21 total fire areas have a rating above “low-moderate” for Friday.
Ms Burford said that unlike the spot showers a couple of weeks ago, the “significant, constant rainfall” is what they’ve been waiting for.
“In terms of rainfall, it has been positive from Sydney northwards. We’re hoping to see some of that in the south, which would be of great assistance.”
Several fires are still burning in the northern parts of the state, which was hit with heavy rain on Thursday.
“We got significant rainfall up north, as we speak it’s still very heavy near the coast which is obviously very favourable for us,” Ms Burford said.
“In saying that, one of the flow-on effects is the potential for flooding so we’re now working quite closely with the SES to prepare for flooding in northern NSW.”
Mike Funnel, the Bureau of Meteorology’s manager of weather services, said the rain was here to stay all weekend and would continue to spread to the south across coming days.
“Since 9am this morning, we’ve really seen the showers start to kick-off on the North Coast,” he said.
Byron Bay recorded 107 millimetres of rain since 9am, Woolgoolga 164 millimetres, Bellingen 134 millimetres, and Mullumibmy 100 millimetres. Several areas around Coffs Harbour reached triple digits as well.
Several measuring stations near the 120,000-hectare Myall Creek Road fire, south of Lismore, reached rainfall totals of between 50 and 100 millimetres.
“We’re expecting to see these showers continue in the northern rivers and down into the mid-north coast into the evening and into Friday … then the system will shift southwards,” Mr Funnel said.
“We’ll still see showers along the north coast, but we’ll also see the Hunter and Sydney metro areas come into play.”
A severe weather warning for damaging winds and heavy rainfall remains in place for much of the state’s north. A Flood Watch has also been issued.
“We’re going to be monitoring that closely. Because if we do see these heavy falls, it is quite possible we’ll see minor to moderate flooding, or even heavy flooding in some places,” Mr Funnel said.
Parts of Sydney’s metropolitan area are expected to be drenched over the weekend, with rainfall of up to 100 millimetres forecast for Sydney, and up to 150 millimetres in the city’s west.