Prime Minister Julia Gillard has paid tribute to the firefighters who have been fighting a massive blaze in north-western New South Wales which has destroyed 51 homes.
Ms Gillard arrived in Coonabarabran this morning to meet locals and volunteers who have been fighting the blaze, which has burnt 42,000 hectares in and around the Warrumbungle National Park.
She was briefed on the disaster near Coonabarabran and met Rural Fire Service volunteers and residents and says the efforts of all involved have been amazing.
"It is incredible that no lives have been lost and that is an incredible tribute to everybody that has bravely fought these fires," she said.
"We are not counting the cost in lives and that is a tremendous achievement."
While fires continue to burn across NSW, firefighters are also battling blazes in and .
The Prime Minister also announced the Federal Government had triggered natural disaster payments aimed at helping farmers and businesses recover the costs of property and stock lost in the fire.
As well as the 51 houses lost, 113 sheds and outbuildings were also destroyed in the blaze.
Residents in the Coonamble, Warrumbungle and Gilgandra local government areas will be able to access Australian Government Recovery payments of $1,000 for adults and $400 for children.
Ms Gillard describes Coonabarabran as a town just starting to come to term with the devastation from the fire.
"I saw earth looking like it was moonscape, I had the opportunity to talk to people who were just digesting the shock of losing their homes, but I also saw incredible community spirit, and that's what always blows you away in these circumstances."
A watch-and-act alert is still in place for the bushfire, and it is still unclear when the more than 100 evacuees will be able to permanently return home.
Firefighters continued building up containment lines overnight ahead of expected warmer weather over the next two days.
Winds are also forecast to pick up, although the Rural Fire Service is not expecting the conditions to be as bad as first thought.
RFS spokesman Paul Best says the fire has been slowly burning east in the direction of Coonabarabran and large containment lines are in place.
But the biggest risk is for isolated properties to the east of the fire.
Those evacuated during the bushfire were yesterday allowed home briefly to inspect the damage.
John Shobbrook flew over his property in the ABC's helicopter and says it was tough to see the ashes of his house for the first time.
"It's hard to take, hard to lose a lifetime of memories, we didn't get one document out of the house," he said.
"Within a few minutes you can see there's nothing so that's the way it goes.
"But we're all safe.
"I appreciate the efforts that all the firefighters have put in, I've seen them with tears streaming down their cheeks."