Easing conditions help firefighters as national recovery effort announced

Dawn brought glowing orange skies on Sunday, as large parts of south-east Australia woke to more favourable conditions after a day of deadly fires and record-breaking temperatures.

The morning brought cooler temperatures and lighter winds across most large fire grounds, but the crisis continued, threatening towns in the NSW Southern Highlands and on the state's far-south coast.

Illawarra strike team members blacken out at a property near Wingello on Saturday.

Illawarra strike team members blacken out at a property near Wingello on Saturday.

In Eden, on the far-south coast of NSW, residents sheltering on the town's wharf were told by police to evacuate as a fire burning on the NSW-Victoria border headed towards the town.

Later advice was for people to stay in place, but the fire continued to burn out of control on Sunday night.

The NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said complacency was a killer and the improved conditions should not be a signal for calm.

Aiden Tredoux from Oakdale RFS has a break at the staging area at Wingello RFS station before heading out on Saturday. Picture: Adam McLean

Aiden Tredoux from Oakdale RFS has a break at the staging area at Wingello RFS station before heading out on Saturday. Picture: Adam McLean

"Please sustain your vigilance, maintain the focus, yes, we can take a bit of a reprieve in the weather conditions but what we have to do is remain focused," he said.

"Complacency kills, and we still have a long part of this summer to go."

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said the small amounts of drizzle on the South Coast had not put out fires, instead hampering containment efforts.

"It is a psychological relief if nothing else," he said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday announced a large-scale national bushfire recovery effort would be led by former federal police chief Andrew Colvin.

A day earlier, Mr Morrison announced up to 3000 army reservists would aid recovery efforts, blindsiding emergency service chiefs in NSW and Victoria.

Mr Morrison said the decision to call up army reservists was about the scale of the crisis.

"It is in no way a statement on the performance of the state and territory agencies," he said in Canberra on Sunday.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Sunday accepted the fires ravaging NSW were "unprecedented" and the state was in "uncharted territory".

"We can't pretend this is something we have experienced before - it's not," she said.

"The weather activity we're seeing, the extent and spread of the fires, the speed at which they're going, the way in which they're attacking communities who've never ever seen fire before, is unprecedented. We have to accept that."

In the Snowy Mountains, 47-year-old Goulburn man David Harrison died on Saturday trying to defend a friend's property at Batlow.

Forty properties, including homes, were estimated to be lost in the Snowy Valleys. Half of those were believed to be in Batlow, authorities said.

On Sunday afternoon, 146 fires continued to burn across NSW but the Rural Fire Service said firefighters had gained the upper-hand on several dangerous blazes.

In South Australia, a total fire ban was declared across Kangaroo Island, where two men were killed in fires on Saturday.

Outback pilot Dick Lang, 78, and his 43-year-old son, Clayton Lang, were both killed on the island when their car became trapped by flames near Parndana.

A 79-year-old man was charged in South Australia with intentionally lighting four grass and scrub fires in the state's southeast, which did not damage property.

In Victoria, Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said conditions had improved across the state.

"Take this as a couple of days of relief. But this is far from over," she said.

Some Victorian fires remained at emergency levels on Sunday night while multiple communities were still cut off.

The number of people unaccounted for in the state fell to four people, after it rose to seven earlier on Sunday.

This story Calmer change hits Canberra but bushfire crisis not over first appeared on The Canberra Times.