On 7 January 2013, bushfires started in the southern regions of New South Wales, when temperatures across the state reached 40 degrees Celsius and above. By 8 January, more than 100 fires were burning throughout the state and at times 30 of these were uncontrolled. Areas that experienced fires included Bowning, Nowra, Tarcutta, Brogo, Carlaminda Cooma Monaro, Illawarra, Shoalhaven, Yarrabin and the Kybeyan Valley. During the peak fire period, approximately 131,000 hectares were burnt across the state.
Up to 1,600 firefighters worked to bring the fires under control and to build containment lines to protect property and prepare for worsening fire conditions. A volunteer firefighter sustained burn injuries in Gundaroo and was airlifted to the Concord Hospital.
The weather conditions that fuelled fires in the south quickly moved north and fires started in the Hunter Valley, up to the Queensland border and west to Moree, Lithgow, Mudgee and Hargraves.
On 13 January, a large, fast moving bushfire entered the Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran in northern New South Wales, damaging the lodge at the Siding Spring Observatory in the park. Specialist Rural Fire Service crews were flown into the fire zone to assist. The fire destroyed more than 51 homes near the National Park and damaged many others. A recovery centre opened in Coonabarabran to assist the local community.
On 15 January, the New South Wales Premier and the Federal Minister for Emergency Management announced that Natural Disaster Assistance would be available to 51 Local Government Areas affected by bushfires in New South Wales.
On 17 January, The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) announced that stock losses exceeded 12,000 head, mainly sheep and lambs. Wildlife losses were also significant.
The farm infrastructure and fence damage from the fire was extensive, with hundreds of kilometres of fences lost or damaged, hay supplies destroyed and farm structures burnt. The DPI teamed with farmers to establish a fodder and fencing donation register.
By 19 January, the Warrumbungle fire was still burning and escaped containment lines at Hickey Falls, approximately 30 kilometres south-west of Coonabarabran. It moved rapidly through grassland, burning 47,000 hectares.
The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments totalled $1,030,000. The Insurance Council of Australia declared the Coonabarabran bushfire a catastrophe, with the estimated cost from the bushfire $35 million.