Sutherland Shire residents feared a hazard reduction operation at Wattamolla in the Royal National Park overnight had gotten out of control after flames were seen leaping into the air from kilometres away.
But it was all part of an operation to burn off 760 hectares of bushland in the Royal National Park in a bid to bushfire-proof the area ahead of the next summer season.
in a Facebook post today, Sutherland Shire's NSW Rural Fire Service liaison officer to Fire and Rescue NSW Inspector Scott Deller said the "volatile nature of prescribed burning" in Sydney coastal heath was on display last night in the Royal.
"Fires in heath, whether controlled or not, always result in spectacular fire behaviour due to the nature and composition of fuel," he explained.
"Prescribed fires in heath are more akin to managing a wildfire, with fire agencies expertly implementing the controlled activity overnight."
Inspector Deller said this was partly why the operation was carried out at night.
"The larger section of the Wattamolla hazard reduction was moved to a night-time activity due to problematic daytime coastal winds, which were experienced last week," he said.
Inspector Deller said the area in question was last burnt during the 1994 bushfires and fuel levels had returned "to their maximum state", hence the operation.
Inspector Deller thanked the Grays Point Rural Fire Service for allowing him to see the action from one of its trucks and capture "spectacular images" of the important activity.
He also thanked the "wonderful crew" from Woronora Bushfire Brigade for carrying out the operation.
Last night's hazard reduction was part of a wider operation, which started a week ago.
It was managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and conducted in conjunction with the Rural Fire Service (RFS) and Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW).
The burn aims to reduce bushfire fuel levels to the south of the townships of Bundeena and Maianbar.