The people of Sydney breathed a collective sigh of relief yesterday as cooler conditions and light rain helped dampen the bushfires that have devastated swathes of the city's fringe over the past six days. The fires, many of which were deliberately lit, killed two people and destroyed 43 homes, 15 other buildings and more than 40 vehicles and trailers, in one of the worst bushfire crises for years. A total of 58 fires have burnt out 100,000 hectares of New South Wales, which has been by far the worst-hit state. For the third day running, much of Sydney was bathed in an eerie orange glow as the sun's rays filtered through the smog. While the change in the weather brought respite for the 4,500 firefighters who have been battling the blazes since Wednesday, fire chiefs warned residents to remain on high alert. Australia is in only the second week of summer, with many weeks of hot, dry conditions still to come. Last night, the main area of concern was the Blue Mountains, 60km west of Sydney, where firefighters tackled a blaze in the village of Medlow Bath and helicopters dropped water from the air. Fire crews were backed up by 270 reinforcements from Victoria and South Australia. Other fires were burning in the wine-producing Hunter Valley, north of the city, and on the coast to Sydney's south. The head of the Rural Fire Service, Phil Koperberg, said it would take days for crews to put out the last of the fires and strengthen containment lines around Sydney. They would continue to carry out backburning operations - the controlled burning to deny fuel to future fires. 'The firefighters will be out there for many, many days yet, performing the arduous, dirty, labour-intensive task of mopping up. It is just as critical, in terms of fire management, that job is done effectively, otherwise we'll have outbreaks as soon as the sun shines again,' Mr Koperberg said. Touring fire-fighting headquarters in Sydney, Governor-General Peter Hollingworth said bushland was a great asset but also a potential danger. 'Where there is beauty, there is also terror,' he said. One reason for the severity of this year's bushfires is the drought gripping nearly three-quarters of Australia that is not expected to break until March. The government yesterday announced a A$368 million (HK$1.58 billion) relief package, in addition to the A$400 million already pledged to help farmers deal with the dry spell. The money will be made available over three years and represents the biggest drought bail-out granted by an Australian government. Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson said the package would give an estimated 60,000 farmers a much needed boost. The president of the New South Wales Farmers' Association, Mal Peters, said some farmers were on the brink of ruin and struggling to provide for their families. 'For those that have been unable to put food on their table, it will certainly make it available to them,' he said.