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Controlled burn may be fire culprit

Nat Bromhead

A MASSIVE bushfire on Fraser Island is believed to have been sparked by a Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service burn-off gone wrong.

Planned burns were carried out two weeks ago, and strong westerly winds fanned smouldering logs into a ferocious blaze that took 18 firefighters and four aerial water bomers to bring under control.

The flames came within 800m of Kingfisher Bay Resort and left one person suffering from smoke inhalation, with resort staff moving 50 guests to different rooms for safety.

Terrified tourists who were camping on the island have told of nearly being caught up in the inferno, which melted parts of their vehicles as they battled to get to safety.

One car had its snorkel melted off and others had molten wheel guards, while visitors told of flames licking the side of their tour bus as they desperately tried to get back to the resort.

Kingfisher Bay Resort Group general manager David Hay confirmed rangers had been burning off on the island in recent weeks. Mr Hay said there had been no damage to property within the resort grounds and there had been no fires or spot fires within the boundary fence.

"Bushfires are a part of life in this country, and everyone has done a good job to keep it contained," he said.

"Some staff were members of the bush fire brigade, and others have worked 30 hours straight making sure the guests are comfortable."

But with at least two separate fires burning on the island, authorities have not ruled the possibility that they were lit by a fire bug.

More than a dozen firefighters from the Queensland Fire Service, the Rural Fire Brigade from Hervey Bay and resort staff members worked tirelessly through the night to control the fire, which was several kilometres north-east of the resort.

Four aerial water-bombers were brought in yesterday morning, and firefighters managed to get the blaze under control by mid-afternoon.

Department of Environment and Resource Management operations manager Great Sandy Region Peter Wright said it was too soon to say with certainty what had sparked the blaze.

"The exact cause is inconclusive at this stage and we will be looking into the cause over the coming days," he said.

"As a part of fire season preparation, QPWS conducted two separate planned burns on Fraser Island two weeks and two months ago. All planned burns are conducted in accordance with strict guidelines and precautions."

Queensland Fire and Rescue zone commander for Wide Bay Phil Whittaker said the fire was almost out, and firefighters handed over to Parks and Wildlife rangers about 5pm.

Topics:  fire fraser island kingfisher bay resort


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