Queensland bushfires see children rescued from mountain top, man dies clearing fire break

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Updated

December 01, 2018 16:40:44

A 21-year-old man has died after being hit by a falling tree while trying to clear a fire break on his family’s property in central Queensland.

Key points:

  • People airlifted from Eungella after intense fire approached mountain-top township
  • More than 100 fires burning across the state
  • Better conditions today may be short-lived, severe fire weather forecast for tomorrow

He was cutting a tree with a chainsaw when it fell and trapped him at Rolleston, on the Central Highlands, west of Gladstone.

Police said three men tried to save him but he died at the scene.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk offered her condolences to his family.

“It goes to show that everyone is doing everything they can to save their homes and their properties,” she said.

“It’s a very, very sad day for that family today.”

State Disaster Coordinator Bob Gee said police would prepare a report for the coroner

“It’s a terrible, terrible tragedy for the entire family, we really feel for them,” he said.

Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who today visited affected areas north of Bundaberg, said it was a tragic incident for a young man with his whole life ahead of him.

“We mourn with those people, we grieve with their community, we don’t want to see any more tragedies,” he said.

Short-lived reprieve

Only one of the more than 100 bushfires burning across the state has an associated watch and act warning.

Residents of Captain Creek, near Agnes Water, have been told to prepare to leave due to a slow but unpredictable fire in the area.

Authorities said conditions today are better than earlier in the week, but that will be short-lived.

Katarina Carroll said crews are bracing for conditions to worsen.

“We’re not out of the woods yet, and we’ve spoken about that. There’s a heatwave tomorrow, winds are increasing so this will present a further challenge for us but I know, I know as has been said that we’ll get through this,” she said.

Commissioner Katarina Carroll said it was unchartered territory for emergency management.

“We have well over 100 fires across the state still with several hundred staff on the ground,” she said,

“Just this region alone there are still 70 fires. In this area Finch Hatton, Eungella, Dalrymple those fires have come together presenting even more of a challenge.”

Ms Palaszczuk said people needed to remain vigilant.

“Tomorrow we are going to be facing again an unpreceded heatwave, it is going to impact right across our state,” she said.

Man charged over alleged arson as rainforest burns

Police have charged a man following investigations into a fire that was allegedly deliberately lit at Bouldercombe south of Rockhampton on Friday morning.

A 27-year-old man from Rockhampton was charged with one count of setting fire to crops and is due to appear in Rockhampton Magistrates Court on Monday December 3.

Meanwhile, in the north Queensland township of Eungella, Kippa Ring station officer Ross Nunn said crews have been battling fires for the past two days that have had flames more than 50 feet high.

“It’s like walking into purgatory, it’s ballistic out there,” he said.

“The heat is so intense you can’t get anywhere near it, if you do get close you’d melt the truck.”

Mr Nunn said he was shocked to see the fast-moving fires burn through pristine rainforest.

“Normally fires burn up to rainforests and go out but it’s burning right through the rainforest. I don’t know if it’s [the rainforest] ever going to come back.”

Tess Ford runs the iconic Eungella Chalet which was under threat as fire tore through nearby rainforest on Friday.

“It has been a very scary week,” Ms Ford said.

There were fears the fire, fuelled by rainforest debris left in the wake of Cyclone Debbie, would crown and reach the cliffside hotel.

“I have had my ups and downs, but [I’m] holding it in there.”

‘People in tears’ as they evacuate north Queensland mountain

Earlier, a helicopter rescue crew has airlifted 10 people from Eungella after a large bushfire threatened the community.

The CQ rescue chopper spent more than an hour ferrying men, women and children off the mountain top to nearby Finch Hatton on Friday evening.

People in the town had been told to seek shelter after fire cut the main road, with warnings “the fire poses a threat to all lives directly in its path”.

The helicopter crew reported some rural firefighters opted to stay and fight the blaze rather than leave with other family members and a baby on one of the flights out.

Waterbombers, including a 737, dropped water on the fire, the warning for which has since been downgraded.

There are now no watch and act warnings for any of Queensland’s fires.

Roger Sharp was one of those evacuated from Eungella.

He has lived in the area for 20 years and described yesterday’s fire as “intense”.

“The fire was lapping at the top of the ridge there where everyone was. We were all moved back away from where all the emergency equipment was,” Mr Sharp said.

“There was an offer of a helicopter evacuation if anybody wanted it, the only hands that went up were parents of kids.

“It was so dry up there and we haven’t had rain for ages… it has just gone crazy, it’s something that no one has seen up there before.”

Mackay Mayor Greg Williamson said some residents were making their way back into Eungella to check in on their homes.

He said the fire came close to one of the region’s iconic buildings, the Eungella Chalet, but it stopped just short of the doorstep.

“People were in tears yesterday about the fact that when they have to evacuate it, that was the end of the day for a lot of people, but it’s still there standing,” he said.

“A lot of people are absolutely exhausted after these three days of themselves fighting fires.

“The afternoons are the worst, we’ve found, and as the day heats up and the wind picks up a little bit and conditions are ripe again for the fire to take off or for a new one to start.

“It’s on tenterhooks for the whole region again today.”

Ms Palaszczuk visited Finch Hatton to meet local firefighters, praising the efforts of those who saved the town.

“Thankfully everyone is safe, but it took the courage of a lot of fireys on the ground to do everything they could,” she said.

Too dangerous for Deepwater residents

Nearly a week after residents of Deepwater were first told to leave their homes, QFES has now downgraded their warning from “watch and act” to “advice”.

But locals are not allowed to return home yet as QFES says road conditions are “extremely dangerous”.

Agnes Water incident controller Craig Magick said fire crews were likely to remain at Deepwater, putting out the fire for another five days.

“Our crews have commenced backburning and constructing and strengthening containment lines,” he said.

“We’ve had over 200-plus properties directly under threat from fire during the course of this incident.

“This morning I have a safety assessment team commencing clearing roads, taking care of any dangerous trees in the Deepwater area and deeming the area safe, so hopefully we can start to get residents back into their properties and homes as quickly as we can.”

In Baffle Creek, north of Bundaberg, evacuee Kenton Bowden can see his home from a caravan park where he is currently staying.

He said while he is anxious, he has faith in emergency services.

“I’ve spoken to the firies and they’ve said my property is fairly easy to defend,” he said.

“Yesterday, the fire came as close as Coast Road, which is 500 metres from my house — right to the front gate.

“What I can see is they’re defending the houses and letting the bush burn.

“I think they’ve got it fairly under control but … nothing’s safe out here, I think it needs a good burn-out.”

Topics:

arson,

bushfire,

emergency-incidents,

charities-and-community-organisations,

rockhampton-4700,

brisbane-4000,

qld

First posted

December 01, 2018 07:54:26





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