A bushfire that has razed through half of Fraser Island is on Monday morning fast encroaching on a township and threatening dozens of lives.
An emergency alert at 3.30am on Monday issued a third ‘LEAVE NOW’ warning to Happy Valley residents, urging people to get out before it became too dangerous to drive to safety.
Early on Monday morning, a large fire was travelling in a south-easterly direction towards the township of Happy Valley. It is expected to have a “significant impact” on the community when it hits at 7am.
People in and around the town were advised to leave the area and head to the Eastern Beach before going south to Eurong Resort.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services warned conditions were very dangerous, and firefighters could be unable to prevent the fire advancing.
“The fire may pose a threat to all lives directly in its path,” a QFES statement said.
Some residents, who are part of the local fire brigade, stayed to help air and land crews with the blaze.
A large tanker will arrive from NSW on Monday to assist the 17 aircraft fighting the fire, dumping up to 1.3 million litres of water.
Another bushfire front is burning east of the Kingfisher Bay Resort from the Dudonga Fire Break through to Cornwells Road.
Most residents on the Island’s western side evacuated themselves last week, before a wind change pushed the blaze in the opposite direction.
The fire is said to have been sparked by an illegal campfire seven weeks ago and has burned more than 80,000 hectares of world-heritage listed land.
Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Greg Leach said high temperatures and strong winds on Sunday had made firefighting efforts difficult, as he warned only “significant rain” across the island would extinguish the blaze.
“There has been a heavy use of aircraft to try and reduce the spread of the fire,” he said on Sunday afternoon.
“In a normal fire fight we might drop 100,000 litres on a single fire. We’re doing ten or twelve times that on this fire.
“This is a marathon not a sprint. There is no significant rain in the forecast, and that’s the only thing that will put this out.”
On the ground, there are 11 firefighting trucks, four private vehicles and at least 30 QFES personnel stationed around Happy Valley.
“The local brigade has done mitigation and burning works, the town will stand in good stead should the head of the fire reach the township,” Commissioner Leach said.
Winds reached speeds of 35km on Sunday, with temperatures in the low to mid 30s making “difficult conditions” for firefighters.
Weather conditions are expected to be similar on Monday, with fire crews said to be most concerned about strong winds.
Police made an emergency declaration under the Public Safety Preservation Act on Sunday afternoon, putting an exclusion zone in place.
“The exclusion zone encompasses Happy Valley township and extends 20 metres beyond the encompassing dingo fence including the Yidney Road high tide exit road from the south of Happy Valley Township and continues to the Yidney Rocks bypass road; and further includes the Yidney Rock’s bypass road south to the Eastern Beach and the housing complex known as the Oaks housing complex Eastern Beach, ending at the southern 40km zone ahead sign,” a statement from Queensland Police said.
As of Sunday afternoon, QFES were aware of 48 bushfires across the state, with hot temperatures and strong winds expected to continue on Monday.