UPDATE THURSDAY 7AM
The blaze at Bellbird remains under control after a cool change on Wednesday evening.
Fire crews worked throughout the night to contain the fire, burning off Wollombi Road.
The fire has burnt through almost 90 hectares of bushland. Warnings remain at advice level.
Advice: Wollombi Rd, Bellbird (Cessnock LGA). Conditions continue to ease across the fireground resulting in a reduced threat to homes. Firefighters will remain on scene over coming hours monitoring and patrolling the fireground. #nswrfs#nswfirespic.twitter.com/8AL3wrcpoj— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) March 6, 2019
UPDATE: 6.15PM WEDNESDAY
The fire has been downgraded again to Advice level, the lowest of the three warning tiers, as rainfall continues to diminish the threat to homes.
Firefighters are expected to remain on scene into the evening to monitor and patrol the fireground which just hours earlier had sparked an emergency warning for Kitchener residents.
Smoke is expected to linger and affect areas including Kitchener and Cessnock.
The NSW Rural Fire Service expects to issue no further alerts unless conditions change again.
Kitchener residents are urged to continue monitoring conditions.
The Bellbird fire was at 6pm listed as having burned 276 hectares.
KITCHENER residents may be as grateful as drought-stricken farmers for this afternoon's rain.
The fire has been downgraded from Emergency warning level to Watch and Act status after a storm swept across the fireground shortly after 5pm.
"Rainfall has resulted in a reduction in fire activity," the NSW RFS said.
"A southerly change is expected to reach the area this evening. This may result in smoke affecting surround areas, including Kitchener and Cessnock."
Residents are urged to keep monitoring conditions despite the reduced threat to property.
A second fire on Neath Road at Kearsley has burned about one hectare.
It is dubbed under control and at advice level, the same warning for a grass fire that emerged at Tank Street in Morpeth earlier in the afternoon.
STRONG north-westerly winds are driving smoke and embers ahead of the main front as the fire continues to burn east towards Kitchener, firefighters say.
The southerly change forecast for the region is expected to push smoke from the bushland towards Cessnock.
The Aberdare State Forest blaze remains at emergency warning level.
Rain is falling over some parts of the Hunter, with radar showing storm clouds headed east.
Firefighters have issued an emergency warning for the fire burning at Bellbird.
The 19-hectare blaze was last reported heading east towards Kitchener under what firefighters have described as "erratic" conditions.
"Strong north-westerly winds are blowing smoke and embers ahead of the main fire front," the NSW Rural Fire Service said at 4.40pm.
"A strong southerly change is expected to reach the area this afternoon. This may push the fire in a northerly direction towards Cessnock."
Residents in the Kitchener area are advised to seek shelter as the fire front arrives and protect themselves from the heat of the blaze.
The fire is impacting several roads and it may be unsafe to travel.
"Well prepared and actively defended homes can offer safety during the fire," the RFS said.
- MATT CARR
Firefighters are continuing to battle against a fire near Bellbird that is burning under erratic winds.
An RFS spokesperson said north-westerly winds were currently blowing, but a southerly change due this afternoon was expected to make things harder for crews.
"We've set up two strike teams at Kitchener ready for that change," the spokesperson said.
"We have plans in place."
An airtanker was also on its way to the fire from Richmond.
Fires Near Me listed the size of the fire as 19 hectares.
A bushfire has broken out near Bellbird in hot and windy conditions on Wednesday afternoon.
Emergency services responded to a call about 1pm about a fire in bushland just east of Bellbird, in and around the Werekata Nature Reserve.
A NSW Rural Fire Service spokesperson said the fire was about five to 10 hectares in size but was not an immediate threat to property.
RFS, NSW Fire and Rescue and National Parks and Wildlife crews were responding to the incident.
The RFS spokesperson said due to the conditions, firefighters were still developing strategies to tackle the blaze.