New South Wales' most senior firefighter says today's extreme weather conditions in the Hunter are unheard of at this time of year.
A total fire ban has been declared for the Hunter today, with forecast temperatures in the high 30s and strong westerly winds already lashing the region.
Residents are being urged to prepare for the possibility of bushfires.
Commissioner of Fire and Rescue New South Wales, Greg Mullins says conditions are going to be close to catastrophic, when firefighters may be unable to protect property.
"There's nothing firefighters can do in those conditions, they have to save their own lives," he said.
"We try to protect property but there's no point actually trying to fight the fire.
"So we're getting near to that sort of weather.
"I've been fighting fires for 42 years and I've never seen this, this early in the year.
"This is December, January weather."