New Whizbang Water Bomber May Be Grounded As Tony Abbott Seen Fighting Fires

The 737 Large Air Tanker 'Gaia', on its maiden firefighting mission anywhere in the world, may have to be grounded.

'Gaia'  is being used to help fight the fires in the NSW Hunter.

Stronger-than-expected winds, up to 90km/h, have hampered efforts of firefighters in trying to contain the fast-moving bushfire.

"The fire is burning very aggressively and is moving very quickly," NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told ABC TV on Friday.

Earlier, dozens of homes near Newcastle airport were under threat. Now homes in Salt Ash, Campvale and Port Stephens also look to be in danger.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has tweeted that severe turbulence is making it difficult for the unique aircraft to fly and that 'aircraft (sic) may be grounded for periods of time'.

Nelson Bay Road has been closed between Richardson Road and Medowie Road. It is expected to be closed for several hours.

Tony Abbott is seen as NSW Rural Fire Service crews battle a bush fire burning near houses along Lemon Tree Passage Road, in Salt Ash. Photo: AAP

Former Prime Minister and volunteer firelighter Tony Abbott has been spotted fighting the fires. He refused to talk to media.

Rural Fire crews battle an out of control fire near houses along Lemon Tree Passage Road. Photo: AAP
Rural Fire crews battle a bush fire burning near houses along Lemon Tree Passage Road, in Salt Ash. Photo: AAP

READ MORE: Warnings: 90km/h Wind Whips Up Fast Moving NSW Fire

Firefighters  are currently fighting an outbreak on Lemon Tree Passage road. Mobile phone coverage is down for many users and there is a total fire ban in place, according to 10 News First.

More to come.