Peregian Bushfires
Peregian Bushfires

Will this be our fire season from hell?

COMMENT

IN ALMOST 35 years in newspapers in Queensland, I can't remember a fire season like this in terms of stories dominating our coverage. Southern states had always been the ones who had 'fire seasons'. But this year, we have one. Straight out of hell.

Fires popping up all over, all-consuming flames driven by strong winds which make them all but impossible to control. Families told to 'leave now', houses destroyed, bushland blackened.

Earlier this week, Fire Inspector Andrew Sturgess warned that at no time in Queensland's history had conditions for bushfires been so catastrophic.

At that stage there were 57 fires burning across the state. I've lost count since then.

The volume of almost-hourly fire alerts in my work email is astonishing.

At 7.30am today, the hardworking QFES team had sent out 398 fire-related emails since September 1.

A blaze hits one area, locals count the cost, and then suddenly there's another alert elsewhere. And another. Some are in areas which have been constantly in the news as existing fires consume new territory; others are hundreds of kilometres away.

Yesterday afternoon, there was an alert for O'Reilly's in the mountains behind the Gold Coast.

If you haven't been there, it's a patch of lovely rainforest at the top of steep mountainsides covered in eucalyptus forest.

 

Bushfire approaching the pub at Peregian Beach township. Picture: Lachie Millard
Bushfire approaching the pub at Peregian Beach township. Picture: Lachie Millard

 

Aerial pictures over Binna Burra where visibility made it impossible to see the burning Binna Burra lodge. Picture: Adam Head
Aerial pictures over Binna Burra where visibility made it impossible to see the burning Binna Burra lodge. Picture: Adam Head

 

Yesterday, that eucalyptus forest was being consumed by a blaze which blocked the road as it headed up the hillside around Mount Cainbable - a spot with incredible views for motorists making the trip up the long and winding trail from Canungra (which has also had more than its fair share of fires).

At the same time, there was another alert, this time for Ballandean, a lovely area to the south of Stanthorpe better known for wines, the nearby Girraween National Park and sub-zero winter mornings than bushfires.

 

Anthony and Evelyn Giacosa at their apple farm that was ravaged by fire in Applethorpe. Picture: Annette Dew
Anthony and Evelyn Giacosa at their apple farm that was ravaged by fire in Applethorpe. Picture: Annette Dew

Of course, the Gold Coast hinterland has had fires before but the Binna Burra inferno and yesterday's blaze cutting the road between Canungra and O'Reilly's felt like a new level of intensity.

Then late yesterday, an alert went out for the Sunshine Coast's Peregian Springs. Driven by strong winds and fed by dry vegetation, that blaze became a monster. Pictures on social media convey a scale that is hard to comprehend.

Places like Peregian Springs aren't supposed to be subject to bushfires like that - it's almost on the coast in a beautiful region associated with sun and surf, not nature's fury.

The smoke from Queensland's fires is drifting far out to sea - NASA imagery of the state over recent days shows the sheer size of the smoke cloud - and the region's sunrises have taken on richer hues as a result of all the smoke particles in the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, the skies over southeast Queensland are empty of clouds and the Bureau of Meteorology website doesn't offer much hope - Brisbane's chance of rain until at least Monday next week: zero. The same is true for the Gold Coast, Stanthorpe and the Sunshine Coast.

It's going to be a long summer.

 

Water bombers continue to battle an out of control bushfire at Peregian Beach. Picture: Lachie Millard
Water bombers continue to battle an out of control bushfire at Peregian Beach. Picture: Lachie Millard


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