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Queensland fires continue with 'gusty' winds expected to hamper efforts in Yeppoon, Cobraball and Scenic Rim

By Rebeka Powell, staff, Wednesday November 13, 2019 - 02:45 EDT
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More than 20 new firefighting recruits have joined the efforts in central Queensland. - ABC

Authorities are bracing for complicated wind changes that will test containment lines around several large Queensland bushfires overnight.

Firefighters are battling more than 60 fires across the state — seven at "watch and act" level — with crews pushed to their limits and still preparing for the worst.

Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Victoria Dodds said a change coming overnight would "hamper" firefighters' efforts.

"We're likely to see the winds swing round to be more south-westerly and pick up. We've also got a bit of a south-easterly surge," she said.

"The winds are really all over the place … that makes it really challenging for firefighters because you've got that complication in the winds."

She said that would also likely bring a repeat of .

Acting Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Commissioner Mike Wassing said the complicated conditions would mean where fires have been contained, "those fires will be tested".

"Our focus is very much if we get new fires, under these conditions, they can be very erratic," he said.

"As you get close to the coast you get those sea breezes mixing with the change as it comes through."


State disaster coordinator Steve Gollschewski said detailed planning had been undertaken.

"But we're in a bit of unknown territory in terms of what could happen overnight and the next few days. Things could change rapidly."

Mr Gollschewski said despite a fire ban in place police were investigating fires that appeared to be deliberately lit.

"You have people ignoring fire bans, sometimes ignorant of what's going on around them ... ranging right up to people who are just acting maliciously."

He wouldn't say which fires may have been deliberately lit.

'I knew the house would be gone'

Twelve homes have been lost in the fires but authorities said with damage assessments still underway near Yeppoon that number could rise.

Faith and Darren Gordon's home endured a flood and cyclone, but Ms Gordon said she was not emotionally prepared to return to the property on Monday and see it destroyed.

"I knew the house would be gone, but I didn't know it would be so gone. You always hope for one little bit to be saved," she said.

"Even though it burned, we love this place and we will never leave. We want to rebuild it and we want to stay here."

The family have also been offered clothes and donations from the local community after being left with nothing except the pyjamas they were wearing when they were forced to evacuate on Friday night.

Even strangers have offered to buy the couple clothes and goods when they went shopping at the local store.

"I have had hundreds of messages, even from strangers. Everyone's been so kind and will continue to be, I know," she said.

Danny McLeod lost sheds and cars at his Adelaide Park property near Yeppoon.

His home wasn't destroyed but was damaged.

"I've been here 32 years this month, so I'm due for a renovation," he said.

Interstate and international firies join the effort

Firefighters from New Zealand, as well as interstate crews from Tasmania and the Northern Territory, will assist in the firefighting effort.

Mr Wassing said there would be tough days ahead, with severe conditions in the state's south-east today set to extend up into central Queensland.

"We've got a couple of tough days and then we're into another week of weather that really doesn't see any rainfall, and potential further erratic conditions again into the weekend."

He praised the "huge collective and collaborative effort" of firefighters and volunteers.

"This is a marathon for us with several sprints. We've been at this since August when the fire season normally starts. We had a sprint in early September with fires, again in October and here we are in November again," he said.

"We've still got a long way to go."

More than 20 new recruits from the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) academy will be flown into central Queensland overnight, a few weeks shy from graduation.

Anthony Sylvester from the Bungundarra Rural Fire Brigade has been working almost non-stop since 12:00pm Saturday, battling the Cobraball blaze near Yeppoon.

He said the crews are doing what they can, but are beginning to struggle with fatigue.

"Got a few hours sleep here and there … It was one of those things that got too big, too quick. We couldn't deal with what we had, [it] didn't matter what we threw at it," Mr Sylvester said.

QFES Acting Assistant Commissioner Megan Stiffler urged Queenslanders to remain vigilant amid the ongoing fire threat.

"People need to have their bushfire survival plan in place. They need to be really alert to the changing conditions," Acting Assistant Commissioner Stiffler said.

"Look out for your neighbours, the elderly and the non-English-speaking people in our community who perhaps don't have access to the information."

Elsewhere across the state, the chief health officer is urging people to remain indoors as poor air quality continues to affect the south-east corner.


© ABC 2019

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