The torrential rain battering Queensland and northern New South Wales has had one upside, helping firefighters gain the upper hand against a bushfire that’s destroyed almost half of world heritage-listed Fraser Island.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services says the blaze is now contained and it is handing management back to the Parks and Wildlife Service.
But crews would remain on the ground patrolling to ensure there are no flare-ups, commissioner Greg Leach said.
“There are a number of hotspots in the fire area that we were monitoring with aircraft but they don’t pose any threat,” he told reporters on Sunday.
It’s not completely out but we’ve had significant rain across the island.
“Those areas where we do have hotspots will be large trees or tree stumps that are burning but they are back from the edge of the fire so even if conditions do change they won’t pose a significant risk.”
The fire destroyed more than 85,000 hectares of vegetation since it was sparked by an illegal campfire on October 14.
Water bombers dumped almost three million litres of water and fire-retardant gel on the blaze during the nine-week battle.
But loose soil on the world’s largest sand island caused the liquid to drain away quickly in the inaccessible, bush-covered dunes where the fire burned on multiple fronts.
One front was near the Kingfisher Bay Resort on the west side of the island, which forced guests and staff to leave.
On the eastern side of the island, the fire came dangerously close to properties in Happy Valley and Cathedrals but was beaten back.
QFES took over management of the fire from the national park’s ranger service early in December. It immediately ordered tourists to stay away from the island, closing access to all people except residents and essential workers.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has ordered a review of the Department of Environment and QFES emergency response to the blaze.
On the weekend, relief arrive with the wet weather, with Queensland and northern NSW now bracing for more weather woes.
Some areas in the Gold Coast and northern NSW border have recorded more than 350mm of rain since Saturday.
Streets in Coffs Harbour and Tumbulgum flooded, and more wild weather is expected.
Four people were rescued from floodwaters in NSW on Saturday night and about 20 caravaners were moved to higher ground.
NSW State Emergency Service received 700 calls for assistance.
— 9News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) December 12, 2020
The Bureau of Meteorology has also issued a flood warning for southeast Queensland.
In NSW flooding is likely in the Northern Rivers and Mid North Coast areas, with further heavy rainfall up to 100 to 200mm expected.
“This is a dynamic weather system and you should always expect the unexpected,” BOM hydrologist Justin Robertson told reporters.
Gale wind warnings are forecast for the Byron coast and strong wind warnings are in place for the Coffs and Macquarie coast. The gale warnings are forecast to last into Monday.
Rough seas and wild surf are forecast north from Ballina, with waves of more than five metres tipped from early Monday.
All Gold Coast beaches have been closed along with the majority of Sunshine Coast beaches.
“The combination of damaging surf and abnormally high tides may lead to significant beach erosion north from about Ballina,” the BOM warns.