Iconic Fraser Island fire out of controlDecember 7th, 2020 | | industry
Queensland has looked across the border for help to contain the out-of-control bushfire burning on Fraser Island, with challenging firefighting conditions expected again today.
- Residents in the beachside town of Happy Valley are advised to evacuated the island immediately
- Residents were advised to evacuate via Eastern Beach and head south to Eurong Resort
- More than 1.3 million litres of water was dropped on the blaze on Sunday
New South Wales Rural Fire Service‘s 737 Large Air Tanker (LAT) will head north to join waterbombing efforts, after the blaze moved dangerously close to the beachside town of Happy Valley yesterday afternoon.
The Queensland Fire and Emergency Service (QFES) issued a bushfire emergency warning at 3:35am, advising residents to “leave immediately” with a very dangerous fire approaching Happy Valley.
Happy Valley residents have been advised to evacuate via Eastern Beach and head south to Eurong Resort.
Minister for Fire and Emergency Services Mark Ryan said the NSW-based tanker, named Marie Bashir, will arrive in Queensland today.
“There is a suite of aircraft in the fleet based around Australia which can be deployed to assist with bushfire fighting efforts,” Mr Ryan said.
“[QFES] are using everything that they’ve got to contain this fire to keep people safe and to save property damage from this fire.”
More than 1.3 million litres of water has been dropped by 17 aircraft on Sunday.
The fire on the idyllic World Heritage-listed island has been burning for more than seven weeks.
‘A marathon not a sprint’
QFES Commissioner Greg Leach said they would heavily target the fire again this morning to protect the township of Happy Valley.
“In a normal firefight we might drop 100,000 litres on a significant fire, so we’re probably putting 10 to 12 times the amount of water into this fire, so significant aircraft operations,” Commissioner Leach said.
“We’ll use the [737 LAT] to put gel lines of retardant between the head of the fire and the outskirts of the Happy Valley settlement, to try and prevent that fire from impacting on the town.
Fraser Island Retreat owner and volunteer firefighter Russell Postle told ABC Radio Brisbane the “daunting” fire front had edged closer to Happy Valley overnight but residents were prepared.
“It’s a few hundred metres away, there’s a lot of smoke pouring out still,” he said.
“We’ve got an enormous resource — most residents have stayed and have fire preparation plans to safeguard properties.
“It’s going to be a very busy day of wetting down.”
Mr Postle said there were about 60 properties in the township, made up of mostly holiday rental accommodation and in peak season could see around 300 people in the area.
“Only a small number of people live here permanently,” he said.
“At the moment there are probably about 35 to 40 residents, so it’s a much smaller group here at present.”
Earlier this morning, Happy Valley Rural Fire Brigade’s Sector Commander Winston Williams said the blaze was about 750 metres away from Happy Valley.
“We do have a very good strategic break that was completed yesterday and that break will give us some options to, if necessary, put a backburn off.”
Strong winds and temperatures of up to 32 degrees Celsius are predicted on Fraser Island again today as a heatwave continues to scorch parts of Queensland.
“If the wind gets up, we do expect this fire to get quite active again,” Mr Leach said.
“This fire on Fraser Island is a marathon, not a sprint.
“There is no significant rain in the forecast and rain is the only thing that’s going to put this fire out.”
Island ‘tinder dry’
QFES Director Brian Cox said they planned to drop another 1 million litres of water on the fire fronts again today.
“A lot of this fire is burning in inaccessible country so whilst we’re doing fire breaks around Happy Valley township, those embers are going to cause some damage to us if they do get out of control,” he said.
“We’re trying to fight those fires where they emerge from that bushland and we’re trying to target as much air assets in hitting that fire where we cannot get access to.
“We’re going to hit it with everything we’ve got.”
Mr Cox said the fire conditions were “complicated” and firefighters were “concerned”.
“We are monitoring very closely over the next few days what those weather patterns, particularly the wind and heat and humidity, are going to do,” he said.
“It’s tinder dry on the island at the moment and all it takes is that one spark.”
Assistant Commissioner Andrew Short from Queensland Fire and Rescue told ABC Radio Brisbane crews were prepared if the fire front does move closer to Happy Valley.
He said many of those remaining on the island are part of the effort in fighting the fire.
“These are people who are not just community members but also part of the team,” he said.
Mr Short said while they’ve now received the additional air tanker from New South Wales, they’re also looking out for rain.
“We had some rain just passing to the south… [we’re] hoping that the rain will actually get across the island,” he said.
“The nature of these large fires is that rain is always going to be the best vehicle to a conclusion.”
Happy Valley resident Ann Bell told ABC Radio National yesterday’s water bombing was highly effective.
“It was relentless … it did quell those fires, slowed them down, it didn’t stop them but it also steered them away from coming rushing through that part of the valley,” she said.
“We haven’t had any embers coming into the town at this point, which is really reassuring.
“Probably with the benefit of 20-20 vision, it [the fire] should have been dumped on really heavily, but everyone anticipated that there’d be a storm at some stage because that’s what we normally get.”
Ms Bell said the landscape of the island had made it all the more challenging to both spot and battle a fire.
“It’s really difficult to sight a fire here, it’s a series of dunes and little valleys, the fire just creeps along through the valleys and then it finds wind and races uphill really fast,” she said.
Despite this, Ms Bell said he felt prepared for what might lay ahead.
“I think if you know you’ve done the preparation and you know you’ve done everything humanly possible, and you’ve got all the support that is currently being offered to us, we really feel that we can manage this,” she said.
“We can put the fire around us rather than through us and keep it from raging into the centre of town.”
Sourced by Mike Barrow