ABLAZE: The bushfire at Mt Chalmers challenged crews yesterday. INSET: QFES Assistant Commissioner Ewan Cayzer and QFRS regional manager Brian Smith.
ABLAZE: The bushfire at Mt Chalmers challenged crews yesterday. INSET: QFES Assistant Commissioner Ewan Cayzer and QFRS regional manager Brian Smith. RFS regional manager Brian Smith

Fire officials bracing for severe season

QUEENSLAND Fire and Emergency Services and Queensland Rural Fire Service crews are bracing themselves for a spike in bushfires over the coming months after conditions worsened over the weekend.

With 13 fires currently burning in the Capricornia region, including four significant blazes, QFES Assistant Commissioner Ewan Cayzer is urging members of the public to remain vigilant and prepare their homes.

"We went into the severe fire danger levels on Monday so we must be prepared,” Asst Comm Cayzer said.

"We are well and truly into the fire season now and it is not safe for people to light fires.”

Asst Comm Cayzer said QFES officials were investigating the cause of a number of blazes, including that of a significant fire at Mt Chalmers yesterday afternoon.

"The fire in New Zealand Gully burned in some very ordinary conditions with low humidity, dry air and a bit of wind behind it to make the fire run fairly quickly,” he said.

"There was a time there when it was reported to have moved 400m in less than five minutes which is pretty unheard of in these areas.

"That's the scene of where the fire started for the 2009 fires and we didn't want to see a repeat of that so we made sure we hit the fire as hard as we could and got as many resources there as we could.”

QRFS Regional Manager Brian Smith and Assistant Commissioner Ewan Cayzer
QRFS Regional Manager Brian Smith and Assistant Commissioner Ewan Cayzer Melanie Plane

QRFS regional manager Brian Smith was on scene at Mt Chalmers on Monday and said one man was lucky not to lose his house.

"Trying to control that fire going uphill heading towards a home our crews did a great job,” Mr Smith said.

"The landowner did a great job of being prepared. He had a water tank and a pump that saved his own house. Our strategy was asset protection and life protection. It went right around the house, the owner was very lucky. He had prepared his property well and took action when the fire came.”

Mr Smith said crews weren't able to control the 200ha blaze until the early hours of yesterday morning.

"We had a very difficult afternoon and then a difficult night, at 1am the fire was still behaving very erratically and breaching containment lines so it was a very good effort by the staff and volunteers overnight to keep it contained,” he said.

"We have crews there continually patrolling. We also have earthmoving equipment to move some of the debris out of the fire line and we've had aerial support available and it has responded to a break-out at the fire.

"One of the concerns was that we had reports of that fire starting about 1pm Monday with a large smoke plume and we didn't get a report of that fire until about 1.30pm so if people do see those types of fires, particularly in those areas, make sure they report them early and also to take any action they need to to prepare and protect their properties.”

While the Mt Chalmers blaze was a significant focus of fire crews yesterday, it wasn't the only incident they were dealing with.

More than 20 crews were at the scene of a major fire at Baralaba Woorabinda Rd and Redcliffe Rd near Woorabinda yesterday.

"We have a fire burning at Woorabinda, about 2500ha, that has been burning since the weekend and has jumped a number of roads and containment lines,” Mr Smith said.

"Normal containment lines and breaks are not holding so we have sent extra resources in the form of strike teams and command control personnel.

"We are aiming to get some command and control around that fire and try to suppress it.”

More than 20 crews also battled major fires at Thompson Point Rd, Nankin and Kelly's Landing Rd, Woodbury.

With the Bureau of Meteorology predicting a spike in fire activity over the next month or so, Mr Smith urged residents to prepare.

"There is no fire ban at this stage but what we are asking is that people delay hazard reduction activities,” he said.

"We want to limit the amount of fires that are in the landscape at this stage and deal with any fires that do break out effectively and efficiently.”

He also urged anyone using a slasher or any other equipment which is likely to create sparks to have a fire extinguisher on hand at all times.



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