Fires have decimated small towns across NSW with three residents confirmed dead, seven people missing and more than 150 houses lost as firestorms raged from the mid-north coast to the Queensland border.
"To have 17 (emergency) fires burning all at the same time (on Friday) across a fairly broad geographic area like the north coast of NSW - we simply have not seen that before," Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said on Saturday.
The prime minister warned Australians to prepare for "worse news" to come as firefighters begin to access areas hardest hit like the tiny hamlets of Wytaliba near Glen Inness and Bobin near Taree.
Scott Morrison revealed army reservists could be deployed "if necessary" as emergency services continue to battle some 80 blazes across the state. About 40 are not contained.
"These fires will burn for some time," he said at Kirribilli House.
There were two fires still at emergency warning alert level on Saturday night at Hillville near Taree and Cooperabung north of Port Macquarie.
One of the victims was 69-year-old Wytaliba resident Vivian Chaplain. It's been reported the other victim of Friday's firestorm near Glen Innes was an elderly man.
Ms Chaplain was treated for burns before being transferred to a Sydney hospital where she later died. Friends have posted emotional tributes on social media.
"I am so sorry for your loss ... Vivian was such a beautiful person," Laura Hayden wrote on Facebook.
The second victim was found in a burnt-out car on the same Kangawalla fire ground with police working to formally identify the body.
People had little more than the clothes they were wearing when they arrived at the evacuation centre at the Glen Innes showgrounds, local Red Cross coordinator Margaret Kiehne told AAP.
"The children arrived in school uniforms - some had no shoes, just shorts and shirts," she said.
"When the first lot of children arrived they were very traumatised. When the second lot came it was very emotional. They saw their mates, ran to them and threw their arms around them."
It's thought some 20 properties were destroyed in Wytaliba with the local primary school severely damaged.
A third body was found in a burnt-out home north of Taree after fire ripped through the township of Johns River on Saturday afternoon.
The property belonged to a 63-year-old woman, NSW Police said.
MidCoast Council mayor David West cried as he spoke to worried residents - including parents, children and grandchildren - at a local evacuation centre where they'd fled from the blaze.
The retired policeman - who lives in Brimbin - said the fire was "a disaster of magnificent proportions".
"It's horrifying - to say it's terrible doesn't explain it enough," he told AAP.
"To go into a room of a couple of hundred of people and talk to them, I'm sorry, I broke down and cried, you feel so helpless."
BOM meteorologist Katarina Kovacevic says while temperatures were cooler on Saturday, southerly winds tending southwesterly in the afternoon gusted up to 50km/h.
Conditions are set to worsen early next week, Ms Kovacevic told ABC TV.
Hot temperatures combined with low relative humidity and strong northwesterly winds will increase the fire danger on Tuesday and Wednesday in northern NSW and southeast Queensland.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Saturday warned "we're not through the worst of it".
"The situation is very serious," she said in a statement.
"People have lost their lives and seven people are currently unaccounted for."
The premier has appointed a recovery coordinator to oversee the official response to the bushfire emergency.
Australian Associated Press
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