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Bushfire threatens Pechey and Ravensbourne as BOM warns storms could start more blazes in Queensland

By Kym Agius and Brittney Kleyn, Sunday November 17, 2019 - 00:40 EDT
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Fire authorities are concerned tomorrow's conditions will increase the bushfire threat. - ABC

A dangerous bushfire burning in Queensland's Darling Downs has escalated, with residents in Ravensbourne being told to leave immediately, as the Bureau of Meteorology warns forecast storms could do more harm than good.

An emergency warning has also been issued for Mount Lindesay, near the NSW border, where a fast-moving fire is travelling in an easterly direction towards Hardgrave Road.

It is too late to leave, and people in the area need to seek shelter now to survive.

It comes amid a warning from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) that conditions forecast for large areas of Queensland this weekend could do more harm than good as firefighters enter their second week of the bushfire crisis.

Senior BOM forecaster Jess Gardner said dangerous winds would likely blow through the Darling Downs region on Saturday night, exacerbating the already tough conditions for firefighters.

"We're expecting those winds to pick up and increase slightly that's likely to give us extreme fire dangers," she said.

"Those winds can make the fires travel quite fast and the heat and the dryness means that any new fires could start quite easily, and fires will burn quite easily as well."

She said the threat of thunderstorms, with very little rain, could also make conditions even more difficult for weary fire crews.

"For the most part, we could see some severe storms and that could bring damaging wind gusts, and possibly large hail which could make firefighting harder — rather than easier — with the rainfall," she said.

QFES Acting Assistant Commissioner Tony Johnstone said overall, conditions on Saturday provided some reprieve before the extreme conditions predicted on Sunday.

"We're going to see fire behaviour that's very driven and erratic on the fire line," he said.

"The temperature's going to pick up, so fighting [Sunday] is going to be very exhausting and hot work.

"The crews are going to be looking at how they can fight their fires using aircraft, how they can get into fires early, picking when they need to do their burning out activities."

Ms Gardner said dry lightning was also possible Saturday night and Sunday, which could act as an ignition point for fires.

The fire danger rating is severe for the Darling Downs and Granite Belt, and very high for the south-east coast, Wide Bay and Burnett, Central Highlands and Coalfields, the Northern Goldfields, Gulf Country and the Peninsula.


BOM senior forecaster Sam Campbell said the forecast threat for the Darling Downs and Granite Belt for Sunday had increased from severe to extreme after a trough across the interior moved further east than initially anticipated, reaching to Toowoomba and Gatton.

"It will be much drier through, that area now, than we expected," he said.

"With slightly increased winds, it will be a little bit stronger than forecast."

On Sunday, severe storms are again on the cards for the same towns and cities as today, but the Gold Coast will also be in the firing line.

The storms could also bring lightning with little rain, again increasing the chances of more fires starting, Mr Campbell said.

There are more than 50 fires burning across Queensland, with one leave immediately and six current watch and act warnings, amid high temperatures and hot, dry westerly winds that will continue across the weekend.

Temperatures could soar from the mid to high 30s at major fire grounds.

Of most concern is the blaze at Pechey which has been burning for several days and flared again yesterday forcing an evacuation.

The Woodgate fire has also been threatening a number of communities.


© ABC 2019

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