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Bushfire emergency intensifies in central Queensland, blaze destroys homes near Yeppoon

By Rebeka Powell, staff, Wednesday September 30, 2020 - 12:09 EST
ABC image
Burnt trees from a bushfire at Cobraball. - ABC

The bushfire crisis has intensified in central Queensland with a blaze at emergency level at Cobraball, west of Yeppoon, after homes were lost on Saturday night amid an "ember attack".

The blaze is part of the Cobraball-Bungundarra fire and is burning towards Bungundarra, Maryvale and Lake Mary, as more than 60 fires burn across the state.

Residents of Yeppoon are gathering for a second night in an evacuation centre as authorities warn it is too unsafe for anyone to return home.

Livingstone shire mayor Bill Ludwig said they were not expecting the threat to ease for some time.

"We need everybody to follow those instructions to make sure we keep everyone safe. We've had no loss of life, we've had limited injuries," he said.

"We have lost homes and we're still doing the full assessment there. We're moving into a full recovery plan while we still fight this unpredictable fire."

Acting Fire Commissioner Mike Wassing said the focus on Sunday was on Cobraball near Yeppoon, where two fires joined together last night.

"I'm really pleased to report that there are no injuries or loss of life in that area," he said.

He said there were unconfirmed reports up to 16 structures had been destroyed or damaged.

"Some of those will be homes some of those will be sheds," he said.

"That fire, beyond Wednesday and Thursday, that will be our next issue up there."

Faith Gordon said she had lost her home west of Yeppoon.

[photo damaged cobraball property]

She evacuated on Saturday afternoon and last night .

"It was really scary because my husband was out at the mines — he's home now, he's made it back," she said.

'Unprecedented event'

Authorities said Saturday night's emergency was an "unprecedented event".

The Livingstone Shire Council said more than 6,000 hectares of grazing, agricultural and bushland were burnt.

The fire was 14 kilometres long and 6 kilometres wide and burning on multiple fronts.

A disaster declaration was made for the area last night and police went door-to-door to alert hundreds of residents.

QFES state coordinator Neil Francis said many properties were "under ember attack", making conditions extremely difficult for fire crews.

Central Queensland resident Cathy Boys stayed to defend her house until her husband, who is a rural fire officer, told her to leave immediately.

Ms Boys said the blaze intensified around midnight.

"Things just went pear-shaped from then — it just kicked of, the wind played havoc, chopping and changing, going every different direction," Ms Boys said.

More than 30 people took refuge in a basketball stadium in Yeppoon.

Mr Ludwig said the community had never seen anything like it.

"We have an active fire front that is now starting to ramp up and the wind is picking up," he said.

"We've got extra air assets, which are coming in as well because it's going to be a challenging fire given the terrain and the size of the fire front."

Authorities said it was still too dangerous for rapid damage assessment crews to get into the area.

Sunshine Coast residents return home

On the Sunshine Coast, a fire burning at emergency level near Noosa has been downgraded to watch and act, with firefighters managing to contain the blaze.

Sunshine Coast Deputy Mayor Tony Williams said there was now just one evacuation centre operating, with most people having found alternative accommodation.

He said he had driven with the police through parts of the damaged Cooroibah area.

"It's quite shocking in fact at the moment — I can see smouldering bush on both sides of the road of me," he said.

"It's incredible that some of these houses have actually been protected given the ferocity of the event which went through here."

The bushfire at Cooroibah had forced the , but some in the Tewantin area were allowed to return home overnight.

Late on Sunday afternoon, remaining residents who evacuated during the fires, including Cooroibah and Ringtail Creek, were permitted to return to their properties.

Cooroibah resident Arthur Johnstone said it was the right decision to evacuate two days ago — even with two dogs.

"Looking at the fire, it looked pretty bad from across the top of the roof from the house and it was coming our way," he said.

Lisa Schubert has spent two nights in an evacuation centre after leaving her home at Noosa Banks.

"We're certainly missing our homes and our own beds but this is amazing — they've fed us they've looked after us, they've offered us everything possible you would offer in this situation and you can shower here, you can sleep here and we can have our dogs with us," she said.


© ABC 2020

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