Sutherland Shire's rural firefighters on standby amid catastrophic fire danger

Up to 150 NSW Rural Fire Service personnel are on standby at Sutherland Shire's 13 bushfire brigades amid catastrophic fire conditions that forced the closure of the Royal National Park and a dozen schools in the area.

Sutherland Shire and St George will remain on high alert for the remainder of the week after the NSW Government declared a state of emergency as a result of the catastrophic fire danger rating - the highest rating available.

Sutherland Shire Rural Fire Service Inspector Scott Deller said both the Fire Control Centre and Emergency Operations Centre at Heathcote had been fully activated, and the 11 road-based rural fire brigades and one vessel-based unit in Woronora were manned by up to 150 personnel who were ready to go in the event a fire broke out.

He said most brigades had two tankers while local Fire and Rescue NSW brigades had also sent pumpers to Menai and Sutherland brigades to offer support.

"Fifteen to 20 minutes can be critical if a fire breaks out in these conditions so it is important to get lots of resources out there very, very quickly," he said.

Catastrophic risk: The Royal National Park was closed today as a proactive approach to lessen the chance of a bushfire. Picture: Chris Lane

Catastrophic risk: The Royal National Park was closed today as a proactive approach to lessen the chance of a bushfire. Picture: Chris Lane

Crews would be rostered on this evening and possibly into the night, depending on conditions.

"We will certainly have people changing over shifts this afternoon and rostered on into the night," he said.

Inspector Deller said the already dangerous conditions would intensify this afternoon when temperatures climbed and winds picked up.

He said Lucas Heights had already recorded wind gusts of 50km/h and this was expected to increase when a southerly change arrives in the area about 6pm, with the next few hours a particularly dangerous period.

"The last time we saw conditions like this was 1994 and we had loss of property and loss of life," Inspector Deller said.

"We have to plan for the worst and hope for the best."

He said the Royal National Park was closed from 9am today to everyone but residents, with police check points set up at each of the three entry points. The park will remain closed until at least 9pm tonight.

No go zone: Police set up check points and only residents were allowed into the Royal National Park. Picture: Chris Lane

No go zone: Police set up check points and only residents were allowed into the Royal National Park. Picture: Chris Lane

Sutherland Shire mayor Carmelo Pesce said council had been working closely with emergency services including the Rural Fire Service to monitor the conditions all day and he encouraged residents to refer to the NSW RFS website and Fires Near Me NSW App for latest updates and advice.

"There are currently no evacuation centres activated in Sutherland Shire however, in the case of a fire, updates will be provided by the NSW RFS and other emergency personnel," he said.

Meanwhile members of the St George and Sutherland Shire community rallied yesterday, eager to help.

Georges River Life Church, Peakhurst, invited families affected by school closures to take advantage of their emergency kids care, which offered free supervised activities for children from Kindergarten to year 8.

Mikes Grill & Bar located in Club Engadine took to Facebook to offer free sandwiches, children's meals and water to any residents asked to evacuate their homes in coming days.

"All emergency services personnel in uniform are more than welcome to pop in for a free meal," said George Meawad, adding the club was air-conditioned and offered free Wi-Fi.

And all 129 Surf Life Saving NSW clubs across the state are also on standby to help with evacuations or other emergencies.

Surf Life Saving chief executive Steven Pearce said the organisation had 40 inflatable boats, offshore rescue boats and 20 jet skis ready to be deployed.