GALLERY: 36 photos, video from terrifying Woolooga bushfire
TERRIFIED Woolooga residents were sent into an afternoon of panic yesterday as a fierce bushfire raged through around 700ha of grazing land and barrelled towards properties in the township.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Service crews first responded to reports of a blaze "burning near Brooweena Woolooga and Bauple Woolooga roads" at around 10.30am, but conditions only deteriorated from there.
Residents were warned to keep watch of the fire as it burned alongside Woolooga Rd and approached the Wide Bay Highway about noon as rural crews from Woolooga, Widgee, Kilkivan and Goomeri and urban crews from Gympie joined the effort.
By 2.30pm, QFES had issued the first "prepare to leave" alert as the uncontrolled fire continued to worsen, with dry surfaces and increasing southerly winds carrying the blaze closer to town.
Curra Rural Fire officer Quenton Hawkins said it was "the worst fire I have ever seen", while a source close to the scene described seeing a "couple of mini tornadoes of flame".
The source said a fire brigade land cruiser had "nearly caught fire" while the blaze had "burned to the back step of one property and the walls of another, while multiple sheds are thought to have been lost".
QFES bushfire safety officer Joe Cullen said two water bombers had relentlessly worked to drench the area in attempts to smother the spreading flames, with additional help coming from the Sunshine Coast.
Mr Cullen said "22 or 23" crews remained on the scene late in the afternoon, as well as two water bombers and additional help from the Sunshine Coast.
He said conditions remained dire for residents.
"We've had a number of crews here protecting structures and properties from getting burnt ... and we're really struggling to contain it," he said.
"The low humidity and winds are really fuelling this fire and pushing it south towards Woolooga, we've got a watch and act in place at this stage and we're asking residents to be prepared to enact their bushfire survival plan.
"If you know anyone that lives in this area please get in contact with them, check on them and see if they're OK and see if they need any help.
"We've got over 20 trucks and crews here trying to contain this fire but with this wind and low humidity we're really struggling, so we're asking everyone to please be alert and talk to each other about how they can help."
The most recent QFES alert, released at 4.45pm yesterday afternoon, said the fire was still moving in a southerly direction and was likely to impact Smith Road and Bauple Woolooga Road.
"You need to be ready to follow your bushfire survival plan. If you do not have a plan, or intend to leave, you should be ready to leave the area because the situation could get worse quickly," the release stated.
A Gympie Times reporter at the scene said fire crews hoped to contain the fire by midnight.