More homes are expected to be lost in a monster bushfire that has sent embers raining down on a small community on the central Queensland coast.
Hundreds of people have or are fleeing their homes at Deepwater, Baffle Creek and Rules Beach as the huge fire continues to burn in erratic winds north of Bundaberg.
Fire fighters say “ember storms” following the fire front are hitting the centre of the Deepwater community.
With conditions expected to worsen there are fears more homes will go. Two have already been lost in the Deepwater area.
More evacuations could be ordered later in the day, possibly as far south as the Baffle Creek waterway itself.
“The ember storms are actually dropping about half way into Deepwater. The fire front is the easy part, we can see that and manage it,” fire service operations director Paul Smeath has told worried locals at a meeting in nearby Agnes Water.
“It’s the ember storms that happen back behind it.”
Mr Smeath said the fire could reach a similar speed and intensity to that seen on Monday, when the bushfire tore across 9000 of the 11,000 hectares it has consumed so far.
[It could] move at a rate that we won’t be able to get in front of, and control …There’s a huge amount of heat in there.”
Earlier, Queensland Fire Commissioner Katarina Carroll was blunt about what was likely: more homes lost in “unprecedented” fire conditions.
Hot, dry, erratic winds, a high fuel load, and low humidity mean the blaze is highly unpredictable.
Fire fighters fear the blaze will do what it did on Monday, and escalate to an intensity where it essentially feeds itself by generating its own wind.
“This fire is actually so large that it’s generated a thing called an inversion layer,” Mr Smeath said.
“The smoke is sitting up at about 10,000 feet (3000 metres), where the jet streams are now affecting that air, (it) cools it down very quickly and that cooled air drops back into the base of the fire again, and starts feeding the fire.”
Flames more than 10 metres high are possible on Monday afternoon.
A Boeing 737 that can dump 20,000 litres of water at a time is on its way from Sydney, with the fire burning along a 50km front at times.
There are 45 fire crews currently on the ground in and around the Deepwater National Park, where the fire has been burning since Thursday.
NSW is sending 100 firefighters north to support exhausted crews, and they’re due to arrive early on Tuesday.
Two evacuation centres are open at Miriam Vale and Agnes Water, but only a handful of people are there at this stage, with most opting to stay with family and friends.
Debra and Bob Wait said they feared they would die when the fire encroached on their Deepwater Road property.
“I reckon another five minutes and we would’ve been dead because we couldn’t breathe,” Ms Wait has told the ABC.
“It burnt all the hairs off my arms when I raced down the paddock to let other horses out it was just raining little white pieces of ash.”
The Wartburg State School at Baffle Creek is closed due to the fire.
Earlier Queensland emergency service asked residents to heed all warnings to leave when asked.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was briefed about the crisis on Monday morning.
Hundreds of residents have already fled to stay with family and friends. An evacuation centre is also open at Miriam Vale, inland from the seat of the fire.
Gladstone Regional Council Mayor Matt Burnett, who is in Agnes Water, said people had taken warnings seriously with hundreds of people fleeing threatened communities.
As the fire rages, the Bureau of Meteorology has warned of a severe to extreme heatwave across much of northern and central Queensland.
Rockhampton was 41 degrees on Sunday, and was expected to reach 39 degrees on Monday, according to Weatherzone.
Brisbane recorded a top of 31 on Sunday, and was expected to remain in the low 30s for the rest of the week.
Hot westerly winds, high temperatures and low humidity are making most of the state like a tinderbox, fire authorities said.
— Queensland Police (@QldPolice) November 25, 2018
Earlier Sunday, a fire south of Brisbane near Undullah was downgraded to an alert level.
In Sheldon, south of Brisbane, a large grassfire that on Saturday destroyed a shed and two caravans was still burning within containment lines on Sunday.
Sheldon residents were warned to expect a smoke haze throughout the day and to close windows and doors.
Residents in rural areas have been urged to take the usual precautions, including avoiding using machinery and power tools if possible, and to call triple-0 immediately if they spot a fire.