Queensland has been warned to brace for an ‘unprecedented’ season of fire – with more houses lost – after an ominous early start to the bushfire months.
More than 100 fires are burning across Queensland and NSW, with Applethorpe, Stanthorpe and the Gold Coast hinterland the worst-affected areas in Queensland, and two uncontained blazes around Bees Nest in Armidale and at Drake, east of Tenterfield, in NSW.
Dry conditions and strong winds are fuelling 51 bushfires in Queensland and 53 in NSW, with authorities warning the danger is not over yet.
Residents have been warned more properties could be lost and livestock losses will be significant.
More than 20 homes and structures have been destroyed in Queensland since Thursday, while the fires in NSW have claimed one house and damaged four others as well as three facilities, including two car yards.
The fire in Queensland’s Lamington National Park remains out of control, burning towards the community of Numinbah Valley, northeast of Binna Burra, on the Gold Coast hinterland.
At 1am on Monday the fire was burning on both sides of Binna Burra Rd, south of Summerville Rd, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said.
There was some good news for residents further inland, in the Queensland border towns of Stanthorpe and Applethorpe, with a blaze there now contained although still burning.
Manager of the QFES predictive services unit, Andrew Sturgess, told the ABC the fire conditions were unprecedented in Queensland.
“It is an historic event. [We’ve] never seen this before in recorded history — fire weather has never been as severe, this early in Spring,” Inspector Sturgess said.
While temperatures dropped in Queensland on Sunday, firefighters’ efforts were hampered by wind gusts of up to 90 kilometres per hour across southern Queensland and parts of northern NSW.
Firefighters in Queensland are battling 51 fires across the state, in one of the most devastating starts to the fire season.
Inspector Sturgess said in 130 years of records, 40 houses had been lost compared with the more than 20 structures – including 15 houses – that have been destroyed since Thursday.
And that number was expected to rise as dozens of fires burned along the east coast, from far north Queensland to the Gold Coast hinterland.
“So this is an omen, if you will, a warning of the fire season that we are likely to see in south-eastern parts of the state where most of the population is,” Mr Sturgess said on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the fires claimed a precious slice of Queensland’s history in the Gold Coast hinterland, the historic Binna Burra Lodge.
“Unfortunately overnight the Binna Burra Lodge, which has been part of the tourism landscape since 1933, has succumbed to devastation by the fires,” acting Premier Jackie Trad said on Sunday.
“We are concerned with several areas, including Central Queensland, but we have firefighters working throughout today and throughout the night.”
Scenic Rim Regional Council Mayor Greg Christensen warned it was still too dangerous for many people to return to their homes because they risked being trapped by falling trees and other hazards.
That fire has already destroyed 11 homes they know about.
“The reality is we should expect significant structural loss [and] that has already occurred, and potentially much more loss,” Mr Christensen said.
New South Wales
More than 53 bush and grass fires are burning up and down the NSW coast between Newcastle and Byron Bay and inland to the west as far as Bourke.
The major fronts on Monday are:
*Bees Nest, north of Ebor, in the Armidale area, impacting more than 60,000 hectares
* Long Gully Road, Drake, in the Tenterfield area, impacting more than 30,000 hectares.
Armidale, Clarence Valley, Glen Innes, Inverell, Tenterfield, Uralla and Walcha local government areas were declared natural disaster zones, allowing residents to access state and federal financial support.
Firefighting efforts on Sunday were focused on two out-of-control blazes at Bees Nest in Armidale and Long Gully Road in Drake, east of Tenterfield, in the north of the state, which were both at watch-and-act alert level.
The Bees Nest blaze, which is burning on multiple fronts, burned more than 56,000 hectares – twice the size of the Sydney city council area – while the Drake fire had burned more than 22,000 hectares by Sunday.
Residents near both fires have been advised to enact their bushfire survival plans.
A third out-of-control blaze at Shark Creek on the NSW north coast, which burned through 2300 hectares, was raised to watch-and-act alert level about 11am on Sunday.
Several homes have been lost or damaged by fires in the state since Friday with RFS building impact assessment teams on Sunday planning to visit areas they haven’t been able to reach because of fire activity.
Meanwhile, at a blaze near Tenterfield, a 66-year-old volunteer firefighter was treated in hospital after his hands, arm, legs, back, face and airways were burned while he and a colleague fought a fire at Mount Mackenzie Road, south of the town.
He was in a critical but stable condition at Royal Brisbane Hospital on Sunday evening.