News National More homes lost as ‘nightmare’ bushfires continue in Queensland and NSW

More homes lost as ‘nightmare’ bushfires continue in Queensland and NSW

New South Wales Rural Fire Service firefighters backburn near the northern NSW town of Drake on Monday. Photo: AAP
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Some families have returned to see their homes in fire-ravaged Queensland, but the “nightmare” bushfire crisis is far from over with several homes reportedly lost in a new emergency on the Sunshine Coast.

Hundreds of people were told to leave, or get ready to leave, in communities threatened by bushfires on Monday amid unpredictable winds.

Less than two hours after police declared an emergency situation at Peregian Springs and Peregian Beach on Monday night, there were media reports 10 homes had been lost.

Meanwhile, people in the small border town of Ballandean were warned to evacuate on Monday afternoon, with others taking to social media to describe the bushfire crisis as a “nightmare” that won’t end.

Ballandean is south of the towns of Stanthorpe and Applethorpe, where a fire that forced evacuations over the weekend has been contained.

That blaze is not threatening any homes but strong, dry winds are still making conditions volatile in the bone-dry countryside.

“We are confident we will be able to hold that, and if there are any outbreaks we will be able to get onto those very quickly,” acting Fire Commissioner Mike Wassing said.

An exclusion zone remains due to dangerous conditions near where at least eight structures including three homes were destroyed.

But some residents are starting to return to check the extent of the damage.

Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford warned on Monday that the emergency was far from over.

“I think we are through the worst of it, but we still have a couple of days to go before it really starts to cool down,” Mr Crawford said.

There were more than 80 fires burning at one point on Monday and there are fire bans across most of the tinder-dry state.

The Gold Coast hinterland rainforest fire that has destroyed 11 homes was still causing pain.

Residents were advised to leave immediately on Monday night as fire approached Lamington National Park Road at O’Reilly, with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services warning it would soon be too dangerous to drive.

Residents in Lower Beechmont were also told that if they didn’t have a plan, their safest option was to leave as a fast-travelling fire approached.

About 100 police, guests and staff who were sheltering at O’Reilly’s Guest House, at Canungra, were safely evacuated on Monday night.

The RSPCA has sent a vet to the Gold Coast to assess injured livestock, and the community is arranging fodder drops.

Some 20 properties have been destroyed and another 27 have been damaged since the bushfire crisis began on Thursday, including the historic Binna Burra Lodge.

The ruins of the lodge, one of the oldest nature-based resorts in Australia, are surrounded by blackened remnants of what used to be lush rainforest in the Lamington National Park

Fires are also burning north of Rockhampton, near Gympie and one west of Toowoomba, but no homes are under threat in those areas.

The Insurance Council of Australia has declared the situation a “catastrophe”, ensuring victims’ claims will be given priority.

The federal and state governments have promised assistance to those affected by the fires, including replenishing already dangerously low water supplies used to fight fires around Stanthorpe.

Meanwhile, police have warned anyone caught deliberately lighting fires face life imprisonment.

The warning came after a man was caught allegedly backburning in extremely dangerous conditions near Rockhampton on Sunday, and the fire spread.

That same day some children lit a blaze at Pimpama on the Gold Coast. It was extinguished before it could cause any damage , police say.

Firefighters across NSW remain on edge as several bushfires burn out of control, but the immediate threat has eased for some townships near a significant blaze in the state’s north.

The fire has burned more than 7300 hectares in the Yuraygir National Park and Shark Creek area, and there are concerns a southerly change due early on Tuesday could push the fire towards Yamba on the coast.

The fire was affecting the southern side of Angourie and Wooloweyah villages on Monday night, the RFS said in an update to residents.

However, the immediate threat to the Gulmarrad and Yamba areas had eased and firefighters were working to protect homes.

Firefighters spent the weekend battling dozens of intense north NSW blazes, with watch and act alerts remaining in place for the Shark Creek fire, a fire at Drake near Tenterfield, and another at Bees Nest near Armidale.

“These fires are starting very easily. They’re spreading very, very quickly,” RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told Nine News.

The Bees Nest fire has razed more than 65,000 hectares – twice the size of the Sydney city council area and is likely to take weeks to contain, RFS said in a tweet.

The fire at Drake has burnt almost 33,000 hectares.

More than 630 firefighters were deployed to fight 60-plus fires burning across the state on Monday afternoon, with 28 of them uncontained,

The RFS confirmed four homes had been destroyed at Drake, along with one Tenterfield home.

A Lidsdale home and four Tenterfield homes were damaged, while 22 outbuildings, two car yards and a pistol club were razed in total.

“Unfortunately, we think that the property loss will climb from what we understand lost so far, but it will take some time until crews can get in there and tally those costs,” RFS deputy commissioner Rob Rogers told ABC TV on Monday.

Armidale, Clarence Valley, Glen Innes, Inverell, Tenterfield, Uralla and Walcha local government areas have been declared natural disaster zones, allowing residents to access state and federal financial support.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison thanked firefighters in Parliament on Monday and predicted a hot and dry summer ahead in NSW and Queensland.

He encouraged those requiring support to contact authorities.

“Southern Queensland and north-eastern NSW have experienced unprecedented fires since Friday,” Mr Morrison said.

“Fortunately no lives were lost.”

The Insurance Council has declared a catastrophe for bushfires that have destroyed homes or property in the state’s north, giving priority to claims from affected policyholders.

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a high fire ranger rating for several regions on Tuesday, including the Far North Coast, North Coast, New England, Central Ranges and Greater Hunter, while the risk will be very high in the Northern Slopes region.