The NSW bushfire crisis and heatwave has only intensified since the state’s premier Gladys Berejiklian declared a ‘State of Emergency’ on Thursday morning.
Firefighters are battling more than 100 fires, more than half of which are uncontrolled, and with temperatures forecast to top 45 degrees Celsius (113°F) in some areas, officials warned residents to be on high alert.
One megafire in the Kanangra Boyd National Park to the Sydney’s southwest had crept to the very outskirts of Campbelltown, a suburb of 157,000 people.
Meanwhile the Green Wattle Creek blaze has affected the local community Balmoral, in the NSW Southern Highlands.
By late afternoon, Sydney was sitting at No.4 on the IQAir AirVisual live rankings of pollution in global cities, above Dhaka, Mumbai, Shanghai and Jakarta.
Many commuters have donned breathing masks in recent weeks as air quality has plunged to hazardous levels not previously seen in the city.
NSW Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan said the service had experienced a 10% surge in call-outs for patients suffering respiratory conditions over the past week and urged susceptible people to remain indoors and keep their medication close.
The heightened fire danger in NSW comes as Australia is in the grip of a nationwide heat wave.
The country recorded its highest average maximum temperature of 40.9 degrees celsius on Tuesday, and Bureau of Meteorology data shows that record was likely to be exceeded again this week.
The extreme conditions have been exacerbated by a warming climate, which is triggering large-scale protests in a country that has been committed to exploiting its vast coal reserves.
Reporting by Colin Packham.