Up to 21 homes have been destroyed after severe bushfires swept through communities in Queensland and NSW overnight.
In the Gold Coast hinterland at Binna Burra, at least 10 homes were destroyed, another five Stanthorpe and four in Tenterfield in NSW.
As of Saturday at 10am, more than 100 fires continue to burn across the two states, with emergency warnings for Binna Burra in Queensland and Tenterfield, Drake, Bees Nest and Legume in NSW.
Fires are also burning at Stanthorpe, Applethorpe, Beechmont, Springbrook, Witheren, Numinbah Valley and Sarabah in Queensland.
Firefighters continued to make their way through communities to assess the ongoing damage to farms, homes, loss of livestock and sheds.
The NSW Bureau of Meteorology released satellite images showing the extent of the smoke cover as it moved out over the Tasman Sea with the help of strong westerly winds.
Smoke from fires burning in the North East can be seen on the visible satellite image, but not seen on the infrared image, travelling over the Tasman Sea due to the strong westerly winds. Check for details; @NSWRFS for fire bans and further #bushfire info. pic.twitter.com/1KYG8OXTHm
— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) September 6, 2019
Stanthorpe resident Samantha Wantling told the ABC said there were “no words” to describe the devastation.
“It really is just something you see on movies or read about you just don’t expect to be looking at it in your own backyard,” she said.
“It was the scariest thing I’ve ever been a part of,” she said.
“There was no power, it was pitch black and it might sound so melodramatic but people just standing there – it was just like you’re watching the town burn, it was just horrendous.
“Spirits are definitely broken, they can be mended but it is going to take a long time,” she told the ABC.
Thousands of residents like Ms Wantling, in the path of the fast-moving bushfires, endured a terrifying night, with towns ordered to evacuate “immediately” as wild winds fanned flames in Queensland and NSW.
Orders for immediate evacuation were issued overnight in Binna Burra (Gold Coast hinterland) and shortly before 1am on Saturday in southern Queensland’s drought-stricken Granite Belt region – Applethorpe, The Summit, Thulimbah, Cottonvale and Dalveen – near the NSW border.
LEAVE IMMEDIATELY: Applethorpe, The Summit, Thulimbah, Cottonvale and Dalveen bushfire (part of Stanthorpe bushfire) as at 5.45am Sat 7 Sep: https://t.co/pwW14IgdPx
— Qld Fire & Emergency (@QldFES) September 6, 2019
Fire is expected to be upon these bone-dry communities on Saturday morning, with warnings that dry dams and creeks could hamper the efforts of rural firefighters who rely on local sources of water.
Granite Belt residents were advised to head towards Warwick and a shelter at the YMCA Leslie Dam Active Recreation Centre.
On the Scenic Rim, inland from the Gold Coast, police declared an emergency situation in Canungra because the fire was posing a threat to lives in its path.
Early Saturday morning, residents near Mount Mellum on the Sunshine Coast were also warned to “leave now” as a new fire front opened north of Brisbane at 3.55am, later downgraded to “stay informed”.
Other towns are advised to “prepare to leave” as predicted wind changes on Saturday morning could change the path of fires including the Gold Coast hinterland bushland towns of Sarabah, Springbrook, Witheren and Numinbah Valley located in or near Lamington National Park.
It was too late for residents of the apple-growing region of Stanthorpe to evacuate on Friday night and police declared an emergency situation, establishing a “declared zone” around the town, preventing people entering as the New England Highway was also cut off at both ends and people told not to undertake unnecessary travel.
An evacuation centre was opened at Stanthorpe Fitness Centre while fire took out a substation on the outskirts of town, cutting power to much of the town.
Long time Stanthorpe locals say they’ve never seen a fire this bad. A ‘seek shelter’ warning is still in place. Residents are going to sleep at the evacuation centre, not knowing if they’ll have a home to wake up to. @7NewsToowoomba @7NewsBrisbane pic.twitter.com/LEdzuSyslH
— Carissa Kemp (@CarissaKemp_7) September 6, 2019
Another fire of concern on Friday was an active blaze at Hawkwood, some 200km west of Bundaberg.
In NSW, emergency warnings have been issued for Tenterfield, Drake and Legume in northern NSW and residents of Bees Nest near Armidale have been told to seek shelter.
Four homes in Tenterfield, northern NSW are believed to have been destroyed and a house in Queensland’s Scenic Rim had been “lost” in the bushfire between Canungra and Sarabah.
The first house lost to the bushfires was near Mareeba in a fast-moving grassfire on Thursday.
A 66-year-old firefighter is fighting for his life after suffering serious burns to his head, face and upper body and is in a critical condition in the Royal Brisbane Hospital.
The New England Highway at Tenterfield, and Waterfall Way at Ebor was reopened later on Friday night.
The Bureau of Meteorology said strong gusty winds, temperatures in the mid-30s and very low humidity were creating the very dangerous conditions.
Cooler conditions are forecast in coming days but the fire danger will remain high until the middle of next week.
Wind changes are predicted on the Gold Coast on Saturday which could push fires into new territory, with extreme gusty winds whipping up flames.
Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Harry Clark said the weather conditions, which are unusual for early September, are expected to continue.
He said Queensland would not have more moisture in the air until next week, he said.
There are no significant rains in sight anywhere in the state for at least the next seven days, Mr Clark said.
But temperatures will drop significantly from Saturday.
Toowoomba, which saw 30-degree temperatures on Friday is expected to drop to about 20 degrees on Saturday.
RFS NSW spokesman Anthony Bradstreet said 760 firefighters were deployed as of Friday night in response to blazes across the state.
Firefighters worked under challenging conditions with dry conditions from prolonged drought and strong winds through the fire grounds.
Mr Bradstreet said that while conditions may ease over the weekend, parts of northeast NSW would still sit in the very high fire danger range on Saturday.
“In terms of the impact on these fire grounds, they’re going to be fighting these fires for, I’d be suggesting weeks,” he told AAP on Friday.
“Some of these fires are very large and with no rain on the horizon at the moment, this is going to be a very long battle for firefighters in the field.”
On the Gold Coast hinterland Ferny Glen local Greg Hinchcliffe said more fires were starting from the embers landing in grassland.
“It’s pretty bad. A lady up the road just lost her house,” Mr Hinchcliffe said.
“The embers up in the air are hard to keep on top of, it takes off quick.”