Smoke fills the sky in Port Macquarie.
Image: REUTERS/Mireya Reyes

Towns were evacuated and hundreds of residents told to flee on Friday as a record number of emergency-level bushfires raged across two Australian states.

An Air-crane water bombing helicopter drops water on a bush fire in Harrington.
Image: AAP Image/Shane Chalker via Reuters

The New South Wales Rural Fire service issued warnings for 17 fires, advising people to leave early or to seek shelter. More than 50 smaller blazes also burning out of control.

NSW Rural Fire Service and Rescue NSW personnel conduct property protection as a bushfire burns in Woodford NSW, Australia, November 8, 2019.
Image: AAP Image/ DanHimbrechts via Reuters

The service has also received many reports of people being trapped in their homes, national broadcaster ABC said.

Smoke with orange tint blanketing skies and orange hues are seen from a kitchen window in Port Macquarie, Australia, November 8, 2019.
Smoke with orange tint blanketing skies and orange hues are seen from a kitchen window in Port Macquarie, Australia, November 8, 2019.
Image: Laura Begbie via Reuters

“These fires are very dangerous. If you are near these fires, your life is at risk and you need to take action to protect your life,” NSW Rural Fire service said.

By early evening, the number of emergency-level fires had eased to 15 fires simultaneously burning and three fires at that same level burning in Queensland state to the north.

High winds were fanning fires, turning the sky red in the mid-north coastal town of Port Macquarie, according to posts on social media.

A resident hoses smouldering logs as a bushfire burns in Woodford NSW, Australia, November 8th, 2019.
A resident hoses smouldering logs as a bushfire burns in Woodford NSW, Australia, November 8th, 2019.
Image: AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts via Reuters

More than 1,000 firefighters and 70 aircraft had been deployed to battle the blaze, fire authorities told the ABC.

“It is a very volatile and very dangerous set of circumstances that we are experiencing right across these fire grounds in New South Wales,” New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

In Queensland, people in several towns including Cooroibah and Tewantin, with a combined population of around 6,500, were told to leave by the state’s fire and emergency services.

Australia had an early and fierce start to its bushfire season, with an elderly couple killed in a blaze in October.

This is one of Australia’s worst bushfire seasons with a record number of emergency warnings and firefighters battling dozens of fires.