Queensland and New South Wales are facing the worst start to the bushfire season on record as out of control fires rip through parts of the states, destroying property and forcing residents to flee.
Firefighters are battling over 100 fires across the two states, with one of the most dangerous blazes tearing through the Gold Coast hinterland over the weekend. ABC News reported over 20 homes and properties have been lost in Queensland since Friday, with that number expected to rise in the coming days.
Most of the fires threatening the two states remain out of control on Monday as hot, dry conditions and strong winds fuel the flames and prevent firefighters from getting close enough to douse the fires.
Meanwhile, the out-of-control blaze in the Gold Coast’s hinterland left much of the Lamington National Park blackened and burned. Among the infrastructure lost in the Lamington National Park was the heritage-listed Binna Burra Lodge, which sustained significant damage in the blaze.
Water bombers took to the sky to try weaken the inferno and allow firefighters the chance to contain it on the ground, but strong winds continued to cause catastrophic conditions.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services predictive services inspector, Andrew Sturgess, said the state had never before seen bushfire conditions as serious as this so early in the season.
“So this is an omen, if you will, a warning of the fire season that we are likely to see in southeastern parts of the state where most of the population is,” Mr Sturgess said.
Further inland, Stanthorpe and the nearby suburb of Applethorpe faced down a dangerous blaze fueled by strong winds. An exclusion zone was put in place as trees and powerlines came down in the area.
However, in some good news to locals in the area, Queensland fire and emergency services acting deputy commissioner, Neil Gallant, stated that the blaze is now under control with conditions improving since the weekend. Firefighters will continue to strengthen containment lines throughout the next few days to ensure the fire remains under control.
In response to the danger, Education Minister, Grace Grace, announced nine state schools would close on Monday and urged parents to take caution and monitor the ongoing danger.
“The decision to close schools is never taken lightly, but our number one priority remains the safety of students, staff and their families,” Ms Grace said.
“We will continue to liaise with emergency services personnel as the situation progresses, and we will close further schools, if necessary, for the safety of our communities.
“I strongly encourage everybody to tune into their local ABC radio service for updates on bushfires and follow all advice from emergency services in your area.”
Financial assistance for residents affected by the fires has also been made available. Grants of up to $180 per person, to a maximum of $900 for a family of five or more, are now available to eligible people experiencing genuine financial hardship as a result of the bushfires.
The Emergency Hardship Assistance grants will help cover the costs of essential items, such as food and clothing, for people directly impacted by this disaster.
Meanwhile, New South Wales is also facing down similar threats, with dangerous conditions challenging crews who are currently battling several fires on multiple fronts.
Wind speeds of up to 70km/h whipped up several fires across the state with a lot of the firefighter’s efforts focused on out-of-control blazes in Armidale and in Drake, east of Tenterfield.
Natural disaster zones have been declared for the areas of Armidale, Clarence Valley, Glen Innes, Inverell, Tenterfield, Uralla and Walcha, allowing residents to access state and federal financial support.
As of Monday, with cooler weather still a few days away, 73 fires burned across Queensland, from the States’s south east to Cairns. Residents of Peregian Springs, Peregian Beach, Peregian Breeze Estate and Marcus Beach were also advised to leave immediately by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES).
The number of properties destroyed or damaged in the blazes now stands at 57 but that number may rise significantly in the coming days.
More to come.