Queensland remains a “tinderbox” despite favourable bushfire conditions, with Gold Coast hinterland residents on alert while firefighters work to control a blaze.
Meanwhile, south of the border in northern NSW, emergency fire warnings have been significantly downgraded after a wind change lowered the threat to homes.
A bushfire that has burnt 53,000 hectares near the town of Drake jumped a highway on Saturday afternoon and was heading straight for the town has had its warning lowered to “advice”.
“The threat to homes has eased. Winds are easing ahead of a predicted easterly change,” the NSW Rural Fire Service alert states.
Residents in the areas of Rover Park and Red Rock, who were previously told it was too late to leave have since been advised to monitor conditions.
Another out-of-control fire at Glen Innes Severn has been downgraded from emergency warning to a watch-and-act, although the RFS has continued to warn of spot fires ignited ahead of the main fire.
EMERGENCY WARNING: Long Gully Rd, Drake (Tenterfield LGA) The fire has jumped the Bruxner Highway & is moving in a NE direction towards Red Rock & Rover Park. The Bruxner Highway is currently closed is some locations. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/Q41jZPMQwB
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) September 14, 2019
The Glen Innes Severn blaze also prompted an emergency warning, but this also has been downgraded.
Firefighters from Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and New Zealand have arrived in Queensland to give weary crews a break after days of fighting fires that have razed homes and bushland.
Fatigue among volunteers is playing on the mind of Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford, who fears what could happen if the emergency that has played out over the past week continues throughout the season.
“What happens if we have a fire season like we had for the last week for the next three to four months?” he said.
Dozens of fires are burning from the state’s southern border to Cape York but weather conditions like those which created multiples infernos leaving residents sleeping in evacuation centres for days are not expected.
“Things don’t look too bad because the winds aren’t terribly strong,” the Bureau of Meteorology’s Livio Regano told AAP on Saturday.
But he warned the state to remain vigilant as the situation can change quickly.
“The situation is now – the way the land is and the vegetation – it only takes the slightest bit of breeze to bring fire dangers to very high, or even extreme,” Mr Regano said.
“The whole state is a tinderbox. As soon as the wind picks up, somewhere’s going to be in trouble.”
Look who’s been fighting fires at Drake in northern NSW. 🔥👨🏻🚒 Former prime minister @HonTonyAbbott is pictured here taking a break on a property along Mud Flat Road. @abcnews @ABCRural @NSWRFS @abclandline @BreakfastNews @ABCemergency #bushfire #auspol
📸: Wendy Johnston pic.twitter.com/mvc79kb7Ue
— Kim Honan (@kimhonan) September 10, 2019
Higher temperatures are forecast for next week and officials have warned fires could burn for months because the ground is bone-dry and there is no rain in sight.
Two of the more serious fires are at Sarabah, west of the Gold Coast, and at Peregian on the Sunshine Coast, where authorities have told people to remain alert in case they flare up.
Scenic Rim mayor Greg Christensen, whose region in the Gold Coast hinterland has been battling fires for more than a week, said Saturday is being spent preparing for more difficult conditions.
“Everything is focused today on containment in preparation for wind shift tomorrow, which is likely to cause some pressure points,” he said.
“But the risks to habitations have declined significantly.
“While there’s a lot of smoke still in the valley, causing uncertainty, the fire fronts in close proximity south of Canungra are inside containment lines.”
Local firefights who had Friday off after being relieved by interstate colleagues will resume their work over the weekend, Mr Christensen said.
Firefighters in northern NSW were working around the clock over the weekend to strengthen containment lines as “challenging” conditions are forecast for the days ahead.
Crews working to strengthen containment lines ahead of challenging conditions in coming days. It is important residents take steps early to prepare their properties & discuss what you will do, where you will go and what you will take, in the event a fire threatens. #nswrfs pic.twitter.com/lWLln6ULjD
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) September 14, 2019