FNQ fire danger a real threat

FNQ residents urged to remain on alert as bushfire threat escalates


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A fast-moving grassfire that claimed a home near Mareeba last Thursday has highlighted warnings from authorities that Far North Queensland is not immune to the bushfire crisis enveloping eastern parts of the state.

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Volunteers backburning Eureka Creek west of Dimbulah to protect stock and water pumps and contain the spread of the fire. Pictures - Tahna Jackson.

Volunteers backburning Eureka Creek west of Dimbulah to protect stock and water pumps and contain the spread of the fire. Pictures - Tahna Jackson.

A fast-moving grassfire that claimed a home near Mareeba last Thursday has highlighted warnings from authorities that Far North Queensland is not immune to the bushfire crisis enveloping eastern parts of the state.

Authorities urged residents not to be complacent and to pay attention to bushfire warnings as conditions were expected to worsen, thanks to dry air moving deep into the tropical north.

One couple feeling the full force of the rapidly deteriorating weather last Thursday were Tahna and Simon Jackson who live at Stockade Farm on the western side of Dimbulah.

As she was driving home from Townsville last Thursday, Ms Jackson became concerned when she saw smoke in the direction of her home.

"It was very black - I thought it was a house," she said.

"Luckily, our caretaker had shifted our cattle to the house compound.

"The fire had jumped the creek and was coming towards us. It was so windy, it jumped the irrigation.

"We were throwing our lambs and kids into our house paddock - it had green grass and we thought there was a better chance for survival."

They worked all that night back-burning with neighbours, protecting nearby mango, lime and tea-tree crops, and now remain vigilant as they monitor spot fires begun by embers fanned by the wind, from burning trees that are falling.

"We were lucky to save our houses, thanks to a lot of people working together," Ms Jackson said.

They estimate they have lost a third of their property to fire. No causes for the fires have yet been identified.

Ms Jackson said they were probably lucky the fires had happened when they did rather than in a couple of months time when it would be a lot hotter.

"We have access to enough water to fight fires but the places some of them are burning in is inaccessible in parts. Thankfully some people have sprinkler systems for their trees that are helping provide a buffer zone."

Simon Jackson surveys his bottom paddock west of Dimbulah, which neighbours and fire fighters tried hard to save.

Simon Jackson surveys his bottom paddock west of Dimbulah, which neighbours and fire fighters tried hard to save.

Rural Fire Brigade acting commissioner Tony Johnstone said the lack of a wet winter combined with a warm air mass moving north, and winds with gusts of between 40 and 70kmh, meant people needed to be much more vigilant than in past years.

"Across the state at the moment we have 65 fires and 150 appliances at work. It could be a long, dry, hot season until the cyclone season comes along."

By Monday night, the number of bushfires in the state had increased to 87. Homes had been lost at Peregian on the Sunshine Coast and fires were burning at Lowmead north of Bundaberg and at Mt Archer in the Rockhampton area.

Bureau of Meteorology weather services manager Richard Wardle warned conditions across the state would not ease until mid-week.

"The dry air has penetrated deep into the tropical north, and is expected to cause very high fire dangers along the north east coast," he said.

Far North Queensland has also been scarred by bushfires this week.

Far North Queensland has also been scarred by bushfires this week.

Mareeba mayor Tom Gilmore said a shire-wide ban on fire permits remained in place until Thursday. Existing permits were suspended and he asked residents to refrain from lighting fires.

"We are facing critical bushfire conditions and we do not want any properties or homes destroyed by careless acts," he said.

"Activities including backburning, slashing and vegetation management should not be undertaken at all and hot work such as welding, grinding, oxy cutting etc should be avoided at all costs.

"If you feel an absolute need to light a fire for any reason, seek advice from QFES and ensure there is fire fighting equipment on hand.

Authorities are encouraging residents to report any suspicious fire lighting activities.

"Gather as much information as you can including car registration, description of persons, time and location and call triple zero (000) immediately," Cr Gilmore said.

"It's simple, don't light fires."

On Monday afternoon, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service crews were on scene at a bushfire burning near the Kennedy Highway and Saint Ronans Road, Forty Mile, west of Mount Garnet.

There was no threat to property at the time and firefighters were to monitor the blaze over coming days.

Sprinkler equipment that survived the fires in the Dimbulah region.

Sprinkler equipment that survived the fires in the Dimbulah region.

The story FNQ fire danger a real threat first appeared on North Queensland Register.

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