AN emergency warning has been issued for a fire west of Newcastle that may threaten the M1, the main road route between Sydney and Brisbane.
The NSW Rural Fire Service says the fire is burning in the area of Stockrington Road, west of the M1, and is heading towards Minmi.
Crews are working to protect homes and authorities warn the fire may threaten the motorway north of the Newcastle Link Road Interchange.
Emergency alert telephone messages are being sent to residents in the area, who are advised to seek shelter.
Earlier, Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters in Sydney it would be hard to contain the blaze on such a hot, windy day.
“If they are not successful – and if they are it would be extraordinary given the weather conditions – we are likely to see warnings develop in the very near future,” he said.
Children were being evacuated from Minmi Public School to the local community centre, the RFS said.
The RFS later said the northbound lanes of the M1 had been closed at Minmi and the motorway is likely to close soon in both directions.
Diversions are in place off the Newcastle Link Road.
Ausgrid says about 450 homes in the Hunter region have lost power as a result of bushfires in the area.
A fire at Rusty Lane has cut power to 380 homes and businesses in Branxton while about 60 properties around Lenaghans Drive are without power as a result of the Stockrington Road fire.
The M1 is now closed in both directions.
The Minmi Public School, which was evacuated earlier, says on its Facebook page that all children have been accounted for.