Guests at Fraser Island’s largest resort have been told to leave on Monday morning as a “significant fire” continues to burn with fire crews expecting north-westerly winds and conditions similar to yesterday.
Superintendent James Haig said there were currently two fire fronts, one north of Kingfisher Bay resort and a second that’s just south of the Cathedrals.
“This fire’s very difficult to control under the conditions we’ve got on the ground, particularly a lot of vegetation and difficult access, so what we’re trying to do is work with the conditions we’ve got and have it past the east of Kingfisher Bay, it’s currently about 3.8 kilometres to the north of it,” he said on Monday.
“We’ve been working very closely with the Kingfisher Bay resort for quite a number of days. We have a large number of our own crews and appliances over there just in case.”
“There’s an awful lot of smoke being generated, I imagine people on the Sunshine Coast can see the plume. We’ve been lucky yesterday that the wind was pushing it largely offshore.”
Superintendent Haig said the plan to get guests at the resort back to the mainland was well organised.
Staff from the Butchalla Aboriginal Corporation are embedded at the incident control centre at Rainbow Beach.
“We did quite a bit of bombing around some of the really important cultural sites as well, so we’re very much aware, although our highest priority is the protection of life and property, we’re also very conscious of the cultural heritage that’s so important on the island,” Superintendent Haig said.
Crews have been battling the blaze now for more than six weeks.
The resort ordered guests to depart the island by 10.30am as a precautionary measure, while more than 350 campers have been told to limit their movements as weather conditions worsen.
Kingfisher Bay Resort said in a letter to guests that it had decided to close until December 14.
The resort management made the decision as fire authorities restricted new arrivals to Fraser Island.
“Rest assured that this is not an evacuation, and our team will work together with guests, to assist with all travel amendments,” the letter stated.
“Until the time of your departure, we request that guests remain within the resort grounds, as access to the inland tracks are closed.
“Guided tours have also been postponed until further notice.”
The letter said it had made “extensive preparations to ensure the safety of guests and team members” should the fire approach the resort.
“These preparations include having firefighting units based at the resort to ensure that any event is dealt with quickly and effectively,” the letter said.
Additional ferry services were also being arranged.
Extreme weather poses new danger
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Commissioner Greg Leach said the fire was expected to be influenced by deteriorating weather on Monday.
“By high temperatures in the low 30s … but more importantly by a strong northerly wind which will potentially drive the fire in a southerly direction,” he said.
“There hasn’t been any significant rain on the island for some time, so the fuels are particularly dry and burn regularly.”
Mr Leach said crews had tried to get the upper hand on the blaze over the last few days.
“To this point, we haven’t been successful at that – we will continue to try and contain this fire over coming days,” he said.
There are a number of other fires burning around the state including at Beerwah and Nundubbermere south-west of Stanthorpe.
Island ‘like a lunar landscape’
George Seymour, the Mayor of the Fraser Coast Regional Council, told ABC Wide Bay that people in the region were grappling with the smoke.
He said he was concerned about the potential damage the fire had caused to culturally and environmentally significant sites.
“I’ve been over there twice in the last week and seeing some of the areas where the fire’s gone through, just north of the Cathedrals … it’s like a lunar landscape in some places,” he said.
“It is a real concern what could be lost. I know the fire is approaching Valley of the Giants, for example.”
Mr Seymour said the fire and associated smoke has had an impact on local businesses.
“It’s not a good time to be shutting down heading into school holidays but safety is paramount,” he said.
“I think Kingfisher [Bay Resort] has made the right decision.
“It’s a sand island, it’s an intense heat, there’s a high canopy … we need good rain and, unfortunately, there’s no rain really predicted for the next week or so.”