Three houses have burnt down after a house fire spread to two neighbouring homes, fanned by strong winds on Lawrence Hargrave Drive in Coalcliff, 25 kilometres north of Wollongong, last night.
Jarrod Kinchin, 16, was in the area and rushed into one of the houses with his friends, worried there were people inside.
He said they found a chaotic scene when they arrived in the early stages of the fire.
"People were running out, carrying dogs and valuables," he said.
"There was an alleyway between the two houses, it was all on fire, it was pretty bad."
He said he and his friends found keys on the porch to open the door to search the house.
"Our first instinct was to get people out, so one of the doors was locked and nobody knew if there were people in there," he said.
"We went inside and we were screaming to see if there were people in there.
"We went through the bedroom to search it and there was nobody in there, so we just went house-to-house, door-to-door to see if there were other people."
Mr Kinchin said others were coming out of nearby houses in shock.
"I've never been through something like this before, it was pretty new to me," he said.
Firefighters battle strong winds
Fourteen fire trucks battled the flames for about two hours in 70kph westerly winds.
"The weather down there at the time made firefighting very difficult with those strong winds," Fire and Rescue Superintendent Adam Dewberry said.
"We also had difficulties with gas bottles, firefighters had to protect those gas cylinders to keep them cool to prevent them from exploding."
Sixteen people were evacuated from the homes and no-one was injured.
Crews remained at the sites overnight and investigators will return on Saturday morning.
"The cause and origin of this fire will be investigated throughout the morning by police and fire investigators," Superintendent Dewberry said.
Damaging surf conditions: Bureau of Meteorology
The windy weather that caused destruction across parts of the state yesterday is expected to continue this weekend.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has warned peak winds will develop over much of the coastal fringe on Saturday afternoon and evening.
A severe weather warning for dangerous surf affecting beaches in parts of Mid North Coast, Hunter, Sydney City and Illawarra has been issued by the bureau.
Those areas could see waves higher than six metres through Saturday and into Sunday afternoon.
"We actually have a severe weather warning that covers parts of the coastal fringe and that's to advise of damaging surf conditions with some large waves expected to increase as the day progresses," BOM senior forecaster Jake Phillips said.
"The waves offshore could get as high as six or seven metres but nearer the coast, some of those areas will see waves in the order of five to six metres."
A hazardous surf warning was also issued for the same area, to advise beachgoers that surf and swell conditions will make activities like rock fishing, boating and swimming dangerous.ABC