DAY 2: Bushfire wreaks more destruction on Woolooga
WOOLOOGA locals watched on in horror on Thursday as the fierce bushfire that engulfed 1900ha (4695 acres) of timber and grazing country on Wednesday flared up and burnt a new path of destruction towards the small township and then Miva.
By 5.20pm Thursday afternoon, Woolooga and Sexton residents were still being advised to prepare to leave, with Miva, Theebine, Scotchy Pocket, Gunalda and Miva Rd also in the fire's path.
Three water bombers, 35 fire trucks and 125 personnel were reported on the scene, five rural sheds had been destroyed and 30 buildings remained under threat.
Desperate firefighters conducted back burns and set up containment lines "strong enough for the fire to burn safely” late Wednesday night, but a new warning was issued at 9.45am Thursday morning.
Evacuations began soon after noon as the unpredictable firestorm burning on multiple fronts moved closer to homes, scorching part of a Woolooga State School demountable and forcing the students to be sent home by 1.30pm.
The sky over Woolooga looked apocalyptic.
Twenty Queensland Fire and Emergency Service crews and multiple water bombers battled the blaze, which jumped roads and threatened more loss of tinder dry pasture as it was fanned along by southerly winds. Police blocked the Woolooga Brooweena Rd into Woolooga from about midday.
The fire continued to move beyond Pike Rd, Smith Rd, Boowoogum Rd and Bauple Woolooga Rd north of the Wide Bay Highway.
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Water bombers moved over Woolooga township at 2pm as the blaze surged closer to houses and the pub, forcing residents to evacuate and further road closures to be enforced.
Locals rushed to help their animals escape the increasing danger, while a terrified herd of cattle was seen running through the flames as aircraft roared overhead near Thomas St.
Thomas St residents Vin and Dianne Hollis had packed their possessions and pet dogs into the family car even before being told to move on, ready to seek shelter in Kilkivan or Bli Bli as the fire came within inches of their home.
"We've been here 15 years and we've never seen anything like this,” Mrs Hollis said.
"Watching it throughout the night, it was a fair way back, it looked as if it was almost out.
"It was way up in the hills, we didn't think it would come this way, but the wind has really picked it up, it's certainly kicked in in a couple of hours.”
"We've been through floods before (but) you'd almost prefer the floods because this is just so unpredictable.”
Kilkivan farmer Graham Sheppard said the fire reached the back of his home Wednesday night, but a wind change yesterday carried it back towards Woolooga.
Gympie council opened the Kilkivan Hall for affected residents and travellers just before 2pm, but closed it around 5pm, saying an evacuation centre would be opened overnight if needed.
"Should an evacuation centre be required overnight, council will open an evacuation centre and notify (the) community,” a l spokesman said.
Ergon Energy reported "63 customers had their power supply interrupted ... due to poles being burnt to the ground”.
Stay with The Gympie Times and https://newsroom.psba.qld.gov.au/ for all the latest bushfire updates.