Residents of Queensland’s Lockyer Valley and Mount Morgan have been told to prepare to leave as bushfires threaten homes and the state endures its hottest October day in more than a decade.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services issued a “prepare to leave” alert just after 1pm on Monday for residents of Lefthand Branch, in the Lockyer Valley, about 40 kilometres south-east of Toowoomba.
“Fire crews are working to contain the fire with help from aerial support but firefighters may not be able to protect every property,” the service warned.
“You should not expect a firefighter at your door.”
More than 100 firefighters were attempting to bring the Lockyer Valley blaze under control.
The same “prepare to leave” warning was issued for Mount Morgan, south of Rockhampton, where a large fire was burning in the Leydens Hill area at 2pm on Monday.
Conditions could worsen, the QFES warned, and residents should enact bushfire survival plans or get ready to leave.
PREPARE TO LEAVE: Lefthand Branch (formerly Glen Rock State Forest) bushfire as at 1.10pm Mon 7 OctBushfire warning…
The renewed fire danger came as Queensland and northern NSW were warned to expect another spring heatwave this week, with hot, dry and windy conditions raising fire danger across both states.
The Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Kimba Wong said temperatures across Queensland would be 10-12 degrees above the average on Monday – and the hottest for October in a decade.
“In Brisbane, 36 degrees is the current forecast for Tuesday, and that will be the warmest October day since 2005 if it comes up,” she says.
Wind gusts of more than 50km/h were expected to wreak havoc across the state’s south-east region on Monday. Fifteen fires were already burning on Monday morning, including three in rugged and difficult terrain.
Ipswich and the Lockyer Valley were among the regions most at risk, but severe fire danger warnings were imposed for the Darling Downs, Granite Belt, Maranona and Warrego.
“The maximum temperature record for October in Ipswich is 41.3 degrees, so getting up to 40, 41 degrees in Ipswich on Monday and Tuesday is certainly getting pretty close,” Ms Wong said.
— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@BOM_au) October 7, 2019
On Tuesday, the hazardous conditions will stretch to Blackwater, Taroom, Gayndah and in the Central West around Winton and Julia Creek.
They will also extend to Brisbane and the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, where residents are still reeling from September’s Peregian Beach fire storm that brought embers raining down on the entire town.
South-East, Wide Bay and Burnett are included in the warnings for Tuesday.
Across the border in NSW, Monday has been declared a day of total fire ban in the Far North Coast, North Coast, Greater Hunter, Central Ranges, New England, Northern Slopes and North Western areas.
Ms Wong said conditions in south-eastern Queensland will be worse than in early September. But the dry, windy heat won’t last as long as last month’s dangerous snap – a cool southerly change will move up the coast on Wednesday.
“There is the chance of a couple of thunderstorms through the south-east on Monday and Tuesday,” Ms Wong said.
“We aren’t expecting very much rainfall, if any, to come out of those storms though. So, they actually do just pose the extra challenge of the potential of dry lightning strikes starting new fires.”
Monday is the Queen’s Birthday public holiday in Queensland and NSW, with public pools, beaches and air-conditioned shopping centres expected to be full of those looking to beat the heat.
We're starting to see temperatures and winds pick up, as we enter the peak of the afternoon. It's already hit 39 degrees in Kempsey. Monitor conditions this afternoon and report any new fires to 000 quickly. #nswrfs pic.twitter.com/xtvNMS9JKI
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) October 7, 2019
Queensland Rural Fire Service acting director Wayne Waltisbuhl told the ABC that while conditions would not be at risk of turning catastrophic – as they were last month – the “spike will still be bad”.
“We will still see severe danger areas and for prolonged periods of the day,” he said.
“Severe fire danger is just that – severe.
“It is a long season and this has been going now for a couple of months and we do not see any relief in this right up until after Christmas.”
Storms are also forecast for the region in coming days, but they are expected to bring little moisture, increasing the threat of dry lightning strikes.
“This is a real concern,” Mr Waltisbuhl said.
He said none of the current bushfires were threatening properties.
Mr Waltisbuhl said last month’s Canungra fire that ravaged Binna Burra Lodge and destroyed 11 homes was still burning and would for weeks, working its way through inaccessible scrubland.
Fire authorities urged people to remain vigilant and to make common-sense decisions when working in hot dry conditions subject to fire bans.