Our thoughts and prayers go to our Queensland colleagues – both paid and volunteer.
EMERGENCY services have issued an emergency alert for North Stradbroke Island and warned residents in Karara to prepare to leave as bushfires intensify and temperatures soar past 40C in parts of the state.
A significant fire is burning on North Stradbroke Island in the vicinity of Sibelco Sand Mine near Main Beach Conservation Park and Naree Budjong Djara National Park.
Firefighters continue to strengthen containment lines and aerial operations are assisting.
Probable changes in wind direction throughout Sunday and Monday are likely to increase smoke and fire spotting hazards for the Southern Moreton Bay Islands, especially Russell Island.
Police Assistant Commissioner for the Brisbane region, Peter Crawford urged residents to be prepared to act on the ‘unpredictable fires’
“Can I urge everyone on North Stradbroke and surrounding Southern Moreton Bay islands, especially Russell Island, not to be complacent and closely monitor the fire situation today, and in the coming days,” he said.
Community meetings will be held at Russell Island Rural Fire Station at 2pm and the Macleay Island Rural Fire Station at 4pm today.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services also advised Karara residents to ‘prepare to leave’ with a bushfire travelling towards the vicinity of Cunningham Highway and Toowoomba Karara Road, Karara.
The fire is likely to impact Toowoomba Karara Road between Karara and Millmerran Road. Embers may begin affect this area as soon as 5pm today.
The alerts come as Queenslanders swelter today with the mercury nudging past 40C in parts of the state by mid-morning.
Winton recorded 40.9C by 9.47am and jumped to 42.5C by 11am.
Most towns in the northwest had also reached 40C by 11am with Lake Julius sitting at 42.4C at 11.16am.
Longreach was not far behind with 41C and Windorah in the Channel Country reached 40.7C.
In the southeast, Brisbane was 33.5C by 11am, Gold Coast had reached 32C and the Sunshine Coast was 34C.
The heatwave comes as conditions push the bushfire risk in many parts of the state even higher.
Almost 110 fires continue to burn around Queensland, with conditions expected to worsen with today’s extreme heat and strong winds – as well as a risk of dry lightning strikes.
The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services has this morning extended a local fire ban for Brisbane residents ahead of a sweltering day of hot temperatures.
Residents in the Moreton Bay Regional Council, Brisbane City Council and Redlands City Council areas are part of a local fire ban which will remain in place until midnight Wednesday December 5.
Residents around Ipswich, Gold Coast and Logan are being warned of smoke around the area today as fires continue to burn at North Stradbroke Island and Undullah.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services has urged residents to keep windows and doors closed if affected by smoke and motorists are being urged to drive with caution around these areas as smoke may affect visibility.
The weather bureau is also monitoring a low-pressure system in the northern Coral Sea, which it says has a more than 50 per cent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone today.
The low was located about 1030km east northeast of Cairns as of 4am this morning.
The low is currently moving south at 9km/hr and is likely to develop into a tropical cyclone.
BoM said the system was forecast to track west later this week, but posed no immediate threat to the Queensland coast and “should remain well off the coast until it weakens later in the week”.
“It’s a very uncertain situation and impacts on the Queensland coast are hard to predict at this stage,” state manager Bruce Gunn said.
The heatwave warning came as the state suffered its first bushfire-related fatality.
A 21-year-old man died in Rolleston in the Central Highlands, about 150km south of Emerald on Friday night.
The young man, who was named last night by Channel 7 as George Bird, was using a chainsaw on his family property to clear a fire break when a tree fell on him, trapping him.
A reprieve in conditions early yesterday compared to previous days allowed firefighters to establish new containment lines and mop up around fires burning across the state.
However Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Commissioner Mike Wassing said despite the slight improvement in conditions, there were still above average temperatures and increased fire danger.
Authorities said 400 vehicles remained on the ground supported by 20 aircraft, with 410 helpers from interstate tirelessly working beside the local firefighters.
QFES last night reinstated a fire ban for the Ipswich, Somerset, Lockyer, Logan, Scenic Rim and Gold Coast local government areas for today.
The two Central Queensland fires burning in Deepwater and Eungella are still of serious concern, with residents being told to watch and act.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services has also advised a number of bushfires are still burning near Mackay, at Eungella and Finch Hatton in the northwest and another fire at Carmila, in the south.
Firefighters are working to contain the blazes and water bombing operations will continue.
“They are still the two main fires in central Queensland for us,” Mr Wassing said.
“This is in terms of both the size and intensity of fire behaviour we are getting and the fact that they continue to impact on small communities in and around that fire.”
A fire on North Stradbroke Island is also of concern due to the terrain, although there is no threat to properties.
Mr Wassing said a fire at Carnarvon Gorge had authorities on high alert, especially due to the looming threat of dry storms in the region today.
“We are seeing very severe fire weather in the southwest combined with dry storms. That’s obviously a concern for us where there is then the risk of new fires starting,” he said.
Speaking from Finch Hatton, west of Mackay, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk warned Queenslanders to be on high alert today.
“We still have over 100 fires throughout our state and I’d like to make a big plea to all Queenslanders (for) tomorrow,” she said.
“We are going to be facing again an unprecedented heatwave and it’s going to impact right across our state.”
Four homes have been confirmed destroyed in the Deepwater region, although many have been saved due to the efforts of fire crews.
Many sheds and vehicles have also been destroyed.
The weather bureau was last night indicating no reprieve or return to normal conditions until possibly Wednesday, Mr Wassing said.
The state’s chief health officer yesterday urged Queenslanders to stay inside and keep cool as today reached record-breaking temperatures.
Doctor Sonya Bennett warned people died during heatwaves.
She said the heatwave should not be ignored and stressed it was important for people to stay cool and hydrated – and make sure others were doing the same.
“I think we in Queensland think we’re used it, that it’s always hot,” she said.
“But this is unusual weather. It’s very, very hot and records are being broken.
“Heat does kill people.”
Dr Bennett said the elderly, babies, breastfeeding mothers, people with chronic illnesses, those who were overweight or obese and people taking certain types of medication, such as fluid tablets, were particularly at risk during extreme hot weather.
She said heavy sweating, dark urine and feeling nauseated, dizzy or light-headed were all signs of dehydration.
Mr Gunn said many November temperature records had been broken and hot conditions were set to continue throughout the week.
“(Today) is another day of vigilance required,” he said.
“We are expecting an increase in the fire danger for especially the southeastern quarter of the state going to severe fire danger levels and that includes Central Highlands and Coalfields, Darling Downs and Granite Belt, Maranoa and Warrego and inland parts of the southeast coast and Wide Bay area.
“This is due to a trough system … the increased wind conditions combined with the heat and already dry fuel state means conditions are back into the severe level.”
Jacob Miley, Kate Kyriacou, Chris Clarke, Tanya Westthorp & Chris Honnery, The Sunday Mail (Qld)