(DTN)--Bush fires raged out of control and licked at the outskirts of Australia's biggest city Dec. 26, after evacuations and destruction disrupted Christmas celebrations, Reuters reported.
While no lives have been lost dozens of firefighters have been treated for smoke inhalation. Some 5,000 sheep were killed in one massive blaze which burnt 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) in the west of the state.
There were no reports of death or serious injury in any of the more than 100 fires across New South Wales (NSW) state that were the worst since 1994 blazes killed four people.
But police and fire officials said at least 140 homes and properties had been destroyed, most south and west of the city.
Later in the day, one fire jumped the Nepean River to the northwest of Australia's most populous city and entered parkland abutting metropolitan Sydney around the suburb of Baulkham Hills, putting more homes at risk.
Another nearby fire in the Blue Mountains just west of Sydney was described as a "firestorm".
"I saw fire behavior that I haven't seen in 20 or 30 years," said NSW Rural Fire Commissioner Phil Koperberg.
"In quite horrendous conditions, fire services today saved quite literally hundreds of houses. Tragically, we did lose some," he told Channel Ten television.
Authorities declared natural disaster areas to the west and north of Sydney and on the nearby south coast where some of the worst of the fires are located.
Koperberg said nine homes were destroyed in the township of Warrimoo in the Blue Mountains, 60 km (37 miles) from the city's main business district, with flames leaping to 60 meters (196 feet) into the air.
Warrimoo resident Philip Lord's house was spared but he watched as the home next door was destroyed.
An overnight drop in temperature and wind conditions gave some respite and a dense pall of smoke which hung over Sydney on Christmas Day had thinned slightly.
Koperberg said firefighters would try to take advantage of a forecast drop in temperatures and wind speeds to light extensive backburning operations in the Blue Mountains and elsewhere.
A line of fire stretched almost unbroken along a 25-km (16-mile) front some 15 km (nine miles) from Sydney's southern suburbs.