News Fraser Island residents urged to leave immediately as dangerous fire comes ‘with a vengeance’
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Fraser Island residents urged to leave immediately as dangerous fire comes ‘with a vengeance’

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Residents on Fraser Island have been told to leave immediately as the blaze that has burned half the island comes within 700 metres of their township.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services issued the warning on Monday morning, telling Happy Valley residents the bushfire was coming at them “with a vengeance” and would make it too dangerous to drive out.

Amid continued high temperatures and minimal rainfall in recent weeks, the fire, which started with an illegal campfire in October, has burnt more than 80,000 hectares.

Queensland has also called for support from interstate. Fire and Emergency Services Minister Mark Ryan said NSW’s 737 air tanker, the Marie Bashir, would arrive on Monday as emergency services use “everything they’ve got” to contain the blaze and more than 50 Happy Valley residents remain in the area to fight the fires.

“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.”

In a QFES warning issued at 8am (AEST), leaving immediately was the
“safest option as it will soon be too dangerous to drive”.

“Any persons in the vicinity of Happy Valley township should leave the area heading to the Eastern Beach and head south to Eurong Resort,” the warning read.

About 9.30am (AEST), QFES also warned residents of the Kingfisher Bay Resort and Village to enact bushfire survival plans or leave immediately if it was safe to do so.

“[The] bushfire is burning in the vicinity of Dundonga Fire Break, east of Kingfisher Bay Resort and Village, through to Cornwells Road in the south.

“Multiple fire crews are working to contain the fire but firefighters may not be able to protect every property. You should not expect a firefighter at your door,” the alert read.

Firefighters have been backburning to reduce the impact of the blaze, which is bearing down on Happy Valley from the north-west.

“Conditions are now very dangerous and firefighters may soon be unable to prevent the fire advancing,” QFES said on Monday.

“The fire may pose a threat to all lives directly in its path. Fire crews may not be able to protect your property. You should not expect a firefighter at your door: act now.

“Power, water, and mobile phone service may be lost and road conditions may become very dangerous over the next several hours.”

Residents stay behind to defend homes and businesses

Some residents are staying behind to defend their homes against the encroaching inferno.

Elspeth Murray from the Happy Valley Community Association said overnight humidity and a drop in the wind had hindered the fire front overnight, but 30km/h winds were expected on Monday.

“It will be coming at us with a vengeance,” she told Nine’s Today program.

Fraser Island
About 50 locals have chosen to remain on Fraser Island to assist the firefighting effort. Photo: ABC: Facebook: Fraser Island Retreat

Ms Murray is staying to defend her home with others in Happy Valley, who she said had prepared for severe bushfires for 18 months.

She said the community had spend months working on hazard reduction and building fire breaks under the direction of a resident who is former Rural Fire Service inspector, with 30 years’ experience.

Ms Murray said 10 people had voluntarily evacuated on Sunday, but about 50 people had stayed. The safety of the beach is only 200 metres away if conditions deteriorate.

“So no one is being stupid, we know what we are doing,” she said.

“We have been well-schooled in what often will burn down towns like ours – it’s not the flames coming straight at us, but the ember attacks that happen and light up unattended property. So every home has been well and truly cleaned of leaf matter.

“Our garden is looking a lot greener than it should at this time of year only because we have been watering it solidly for the past three weeks to ensure that we don’t have dry grass around. Neighbours have looked after neighbours here.”

Fraser Island
Fire has destroyed many camping grounds, including Cathedrals as tourists ordered to stay away. Photo: AAP

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk described the situation on the island as very serious.

“You only have to look at the horrendous temperatures that we’re experiencing over there, I commend all of the firefighters for the work that they’re doing, and it is a serious situation,” she said.

Federal Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud said the state had all the resources it needed to fight the fire.

He said the blaze was harder to beat because firefighters had to use more water to dampen the island’s sandy soil.

-with AAP