WHAT WE KNOW

  • There are more than 100 fires burning across Queensland but favourable conditions overnight allowed firefighters to make progress on one major fire at Gracemere, near Rockhampton.
  • Emergency declaration has ended for a bushfire impacting Sarina Beach and Campwin Beach, south of Mackay, but residents urged to stay informed.
  • Police have revoked an emergency declaration for Little Mountain on the Sunshine Coast.
  • At Gracemere, near Rockhampton, 8000 residents can return to their homes after the emergency evacuation order was cancelled this morning, but the danger for the region is not over. Keppel MP says some of the CQ fires may have been deliberately lit READ MORE HERE
  • Firefighters to begin back burning near Rules Beach as bushfire warning downgraded from emergency to "watch and act".
  • The State Disaster Coordination Centre has now been activated to 'Stand Up' to assist our crews on the frontline. The 'Stand Up' order means normal non-essential functions for staff and volunteer firefighters are to cease as staff are expected to be available to support operational activities.
  • Rail services between Mackay and Bundaberg were cancelled as dangerous fires threaten homes across Central Queensland. Queensland Rail has confirmed the northbound tilt train service will terminate at Bundaberg, with reports many travellers were urged to consider getting off at Caboolture or Nambour. The southbound Spirit of Queensland has also been impacted by today's unprecedented fires and will only operate from Townsville to Mackay.
  • There are now 40 emergency state schools closed across Queensland because of the fires. 

LATEST: THERE have been reports of looting in at least one community as Queensland continues to battle more than 100 blazes across the state.

Thousands of people have been evacuated from communities in central Queensland after catastrophic fire conditions yesterday and there were this morning reports of looting in one community.

 

While residents in two North Queensland communities were told to flee their homes from a fast-moving bushfire overnight, Queensland Fire and Rescue Service has issued an updated alert for the Campwin Beach and Sarina Beach area to "stay informed".

More than 40 schools were closed this morning and authorities are still warning of concerning weather conditions today as eight "very concerning" fires continued to burn among the hundreds.

Further fire updates include:

  • Crews remain on scene monitoring a vegetation fire burning near Spelling Gully Road at Googa Creek. The fire is contained and posing no threat to property at this time. Googa Creek and surrounds may be affected by smoke. 
  • Multiple firefighting crews are fighting a bushfire burning on the western side of Kawana Way Link Road, the northern side of Caloundra Road and the eastern side of Honey Farm Road, Caloundra. This fire is burning within containment lines and is posing no threat to property at this time. Firefighters will work to strengthen containment lines throughout the day. Smoke is affecting Buderim, Sippy Downs, Mountain Creek and surrounding areas. Residents are asked to close windows and doors and if suffering from a respiratory condition, keep medications close by. 
  • A bushfire is burning in inaccessible country north of Mt Elliot Road, Undullah. Firefighters are working to contain the fire and will monitor the fire throughout the day. Flinders Conservation Park remains closed due to the fire.
  • All roads to Gracemere have now re-opened and police have advised residents that it is safe to return. The bushfire is moving still burning and moving slowly in a northerly direction. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services advises residents to keep up to date with warnings so you can take action if the situation changes. Firefighters will continue to construct fire breaks in the area throughout the day. People in the area will be affected by smoke, which will reduce visibility and air quality.
  • A vegetation fire burning near the corner of Gladstone Monto Road and Misfortune Road, Kalpowar. The fire is currently contained and there is no threat to property at this time. Smoke may affect Kalpowar township throughout the day.
  • A Round Hill bushfire is travelling from the Deepwater National Park and spreading in a north-easterly direction towards Bousgas Drive and Anderson Way. People in the area will be affected by smoke, which will reduce visibility and air quality.
  • A bushfire is travelling from Carnarvon National Park in an easterly direction towards O'Briens Road, between Rewan Road and Bandana Road. The fire is likely to impact this area. Fire crews are working to contain the fire and will remain on scene.

UPDATE 5am: FIREFIGHTERS fought multiple blazes across Queensland overnight as police told two communities to flee ahead of a fast-moving bushfire.

Thousands of people were evacuated from communities in central Queensland after catastrophic fire conditions yesterday.

This morning, police declared emergencies at Campwin Beach and Sarina Beach, south of Mackay.

Residents were woken to evacuate and received emergency text messages telling them they were in danger and to move to safety immediately.

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Service said homes and lives were under threat, with conditions very dangerous and firefighters struggling to have any effect on the blaze.

There are currently 106 fires burning across the state but favourable conditions overnight allowed firefighters to make some progress on one major fire at Gracemere, near Rockhampton.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll said conditions faced this were were "unlike anything we have seen before".

"We expect conditions in Queensland to worsen. We will be experiencing increasing heat and wind over the next 48 hours, which will mean the fire danger for the Capricornia district will be 'Extreme' and many other districts will be 'Severe'," she said.

"Given this, the State Disaster Coordination Centre has now been activated to 'Stand Up' to assist our crews on the frontline."

The 'Stand Up' order means normal non-essential functions for staff and volunteer firefighters are to cease as staff are expected to be available to support operational activities.

MACKAY

POLICE made an emergency declaration, under the Public Safety and Preservation Act, for Sarina Beach, near Mackay, at 1.45am.

The danger zone encompassed Sarina Beach and Campwin Beach, including Sarina Coast Road and Campwin Beach Road.

 

Just before 2am, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services issued an alert saying residents at Campwin Beach should leave immediately as a severe fast-moving bushfire was expected to hit within the next 30 minutes.

QFES advised leaving immediately was the safest option, as it would soon be too dangerous to drive.

"It is expected to impact Campwin Beach within the next thirty minutes. The fire is expected to have a significant impact on the community," an alert said.

"Follow your bushfire survival plan now. If you do not have a plan, your safest option is to leave immediately if it is clear to do so."

Firefighters then issued an Emergency Alert telephone voice message to residents in Sarina Beach and Campwin Beach.

This message asked residents in the area to check what action they need to take and stay updated with the current warnings.

At 4am, police said they had begun evacuating people within that area and were advising residents to wait for the direction of emergency services.

VIDEO EARLIER FIRE IN MACKAY

 

An evacuation centre has been established in the Memorial Hall at the corner of the Bruce Highway and Anzac Street.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services advised that as at 3.50am a severe fast-moving fire travelling in a northerly direction towards Campwin Beach was now moving through the area.

"Firefighters have been working to protect properties in the area," an alert said.

"The fire is expected to have a significant impact on the community.

"Conditions are now very dangerous and firefighters may soon be unable to prevent the fire advancing.

"The fire may pose a threat to all lives directly in its path.

"Power, water, and mobile phone service may be lost and road conditions may become very dangerous over the next several hours."

SUNSHINE COAST

POLICE made an emergency declaration amid fears about a large grass fire burning in the Little Mountain area.

A declaration was made about 12.09am under the Public Safety and Preservation Act.

It encompassed the boundaries of Kawana Link Road to the west, Caloundra Road to the south, Parklands Boulevard to the east and Meridan Way to the north.

Emergency declared in Little Mountain area
Emergency declared in Little Mountain area

Police asked people within that area to await further advice from emergency services regarding possible evacuation.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services crews began fighting a vegetation fire burning near Caloundra Road at Caloundra after it broke out about 8pm.

Crews used machinery to construct containment lines overnight in an effort to contain the fire.

Just after 3am, police revoked the emergency declaration, advising the fire was no longer posing a threat to homes.

ROCKHAMPTON

FIREFIGHTERS had feared overnight a bushfire would hit the Gracemere township overnight.

But they have since cancelled an evacuation alert this morning after favourable weather conditions helped fire-fighting efforts.

The Capricorn Hwy remains closed following 4.30am updates provided to Queensland Fire and Emergency Services from police at Kabra. 

Main Roads and Traffic Department advises the Bruce Hwy also remains closed south of Raglan in both directions.

The fire at the Caves is still burning but within containment lines say fire fighters at the scene at 4.30am.   

Firefighters had advised in an 11am update that the slow-moving bushfire was travelling in an easterly direction towards Gracemere and conditions could get worse.

"For residents who previously evacuated, it is not safe to return to the area," an alert said.

"Firefighters will be working overnight to prevent the fire spreading, but it may impact the Gracemere township.

"Firefighters may not be able to protect every property. You should not expect a firefighter at your door.

"People in the area will be affected by smoke, which will reduce visibility and air quality."

In a 9pm alert, they had told Kabra and Gracemere residents to leave their properties as the bushfire approached the towns.

The fire, formally the Stanwell fire, crossed the highway and was approaching Gracemere and Kabra.

"The fire has crossed the Capricorn Highway near Morgan Street, Wiseman Street, Somerset Road and Moonmera Street, Kabra," the warning read. 

"Structures near Morgan Street, Wiseman Street, Somerset Road, and Moonmera Street, Kabra are now under threat. Evacuate immediately if it is safe to do so.  

"All residents at Kabra, Gracemere and surrounds should evacuate in an easterly direction along the Capricorn Highway".

An evacuation centre has been opened at the Rockhampton Showgrounds at Wandal.

Some homes at Kabra had already been impacted by fire earlier in the evening.

Brian Smith, from QFES, said aerial support was being used to fight the fires.

He said there had been reports of fires spotting in the township of Mount Larcom and two people had suffered minor injuries.

BUNDABERG/GLADSTONE

THE bushfire warning for Baffle Creek and Deepwater areas has downgraded from 'Emergency Situation' to 'Watch and Act'.

However,  the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service is reminding residents not to be complacent.

An extremely large and intense fire is still spreading in a southerly direction towards Coast Road. The fire could have a significant impact on the community.

Fire crews are working to contain the fire but firefighters may not be able to protect every property. 

Firefighters plan to conduct extensive backburning operations near Rules Beach Road later this afternoon and into the evening.

People in the area will be affected by smoke, which will reduce visibility and air quality.

Last night, police warned motorists the Bruce Highway had been shut down from Taylors Lane south to the Mount Larcom township and through to the Calliope Crossing near Dawson.

And a high priority alert was current for Mundubbera Durong Rd.

For real-time information on road closures, visit here.

EARLIER: AUTHORITIES have declared an emergency around the Gracemere area as a dangerous bushfire bears down on the township, 11km southwest of Rockhampton.

A Queensland Police statement said the declaration had been made under the Public Safety and Preservation Act at 3.50pm.

Residents of the area are being urged to evacuate to the Rockhampton Showgrounds and register themselves with police.

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services' Rural Fire Service has declared the Capricornia and Central Highlands and Coalfield regions as under a catastrophic fire danger, the highest level on the scale.

Eight thousand people are being evacuated from Gracemere, near Rockhampton, with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll saying the state was at catastrophic fire conditions.

Rockhampton SES controller Eddie Cowie said there are two fire fronts bearing down on Gracemere and Stanwell near the Capricornia Highway.

"This fire will only significantly increase with its intensity," Mr Cowie said.

The fires have caught the region by surprise, he said, causing a lot of concern.

But residents have been asked to remain calm.

Gracemere has never seen a mandatory evacuation in its 150-year history.

 

EARLIER: CATASTROPHIC fire conditions have now been declared on the north and central Queensland coasts as tinder-dry conditions and gusty winds wreak havoc on firefighting efforts.

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services' Rural Fire Service has declared the Capricornia and Central Highlands and Coalfield regions as under a catastrophic fire danger, the highest level on the scale.

Eight thousand people are being evacuated from Gracemere, near Rockhampton, with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll saying the state was at catastrophic fire conditions.

"We have never ever in this state been in this situation before," she said.

"We've not had a catastrophic level. This is uncharted waters."

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk this afternoon said the state was experiencing never-before-seen fire conditions in the state.

IN PICTURES: QUEENSLAND BUSHFIRES

"This is the first time we have had this category in Queensland," she said.

"Unprecedented, uncharted.

"There is a fast-moving fire from Stanwell to Gracemere.

"We are announcing an evacuation from Gracemere to Rockhampton.

"The conditions are catastrophic. We need an ordered evacuation from Gracemere to the Rockhampton Showgrounds."

A total of 138 bushfires are burning across the state, with several having destroyed several properties.

Twenty-nine state schools have been closed across central Queensland at the request of emergency services as conditions worsen in the region. Full details can be found here.

Emergency services are warning that lightning strikes from thunderstorms in the Capricornia and Central Highlands and Coalfields regions have the possibility to produce very dangerous fire weather conditions.

These fires have the potential to rapidly become dangerous due to strong winds, and emergency services are reinforcing the message that the fire danger won't relent until late in the evening.

Four other regions along the Queensland east coast are under severe fire conditions.

Families affected by bushfires near Rules Beach and Baffle Creek will be eligible for financial assistance.

The State Government has announced packages ranging from $180 for individuals and up to $900 for families who have lost their homes or possessions.

RESIDENTS REFUSING TO LEAVE

Residents of the small Queensland fishing community of Rules Beach who are refusing to evacuate have been told by frustrated police they could "burn to death" when a massive bushfire reaches the area.

A satellite image showing the scale of the fires in central Queensland.
A satellite image showing the scale of the fires in central Queensland.

 

More than 1000 people had already left their homes near the Deepwater fire, south of Agnes Water on the state's central coast, as of this morning. But many others are ignoring pleas to flee to safety and some residents are in the direct path of the inferno, even after police banged on their doors last night.

Among them is a Queensland fruit grower who is preparing to battle a massive bushfire racing towards his orchard at Deepwater as authorities urgently warn his neighbours they need to evacuate if they want to survive.

Macadamia grower Robert Griffith says a hot north north-easterly wind is blowing the fire, which is just three kilometres away, towards the property.

"The wind is hot and dry, you can smell the fire, you can see the embers flying across and the whole farm is littered with burnt leaves from the past couple of days," he said.

"As the crow flies it's only three kilometres away, we've probably got half an hour to an hour."

Mr Griffith said nine staff would stay and fight the approaching blaze but their families have moved out of the fire ground.

The team is setting up fire pumps and spray rigs that draw on the dam and creek, he said.

"Everyone is pretty tired but we're a close-knit team, so everyone's spirits are really high," he said.

Devastation caused by the bushfires at Deepwater. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
Devastation caused by the bushfires at Deepwater. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

EVACUEES HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY'LL COME HOME TO

Rules Beach and Deepwater residents who were forced to flee to Miriam Vale say authorities aren't telling them anything.

Residents who spoke to The Courier-Mail say they have attended two community meetings in recent day but still have no idea whether their homes are still standing or not.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said authorities were being "top secret" about the current situation.

She felt the "political" nature of the emergency was preventing local officials from telling residents everything.

A community meeting is expected in Miriam Vale at 2pm.

PEOPLE LEAVING BY BOAT

The warning to evacuate has prompted some residents to consider fleeing by boat, while some are being removed from Rules Beach via SES boat.

The boats are understood to be picking up trapped residents who failed to make it out of Rules Beach via road this morning. They are being taken to the southern side of Baffle Creek, The Courier-Mail has been told.

Sally Ehrlich runs the Baffle Creek Caravan Park, and has so far declined to leave, saying the park is well-cleared and not prone to fire. Around nine people are currently at the park, which backs onto Baffle Creek itself.

Ms Ehrlich says the creek is their emergency escape route.

"We've got boats galore," she said.

"We'd be getting people out on the boats, over to Winfield (across the creek), that's the best we can do.

"We'd have to wait for a lot more fire yet, for us (to leave)."

"The beach is not going to be safe.

"The window for them to leave is closing fast. We expect a wind change and the fire is increasing dramatically."

AMBROSE RESIDENTS TOLD TO LEAVE IMMEDIATELY

Residents of the small north Queensland town of Ambrose, west of Gladstone, have been told to leave immediately by emergency services as bushfires continue to ravage that part of the state.

The bushfire warning, released at 1.55pm by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, said that there was a blaze approaching the townships of Ambrose and Mt Larcom.

RESIDENTS WHO STAY 'RISKING DEATH'

Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford also said residents who stayed were risking death by staying put.

"We are expecting a bad day, there's no easy way to say that," he told ABC radio this morning.

"What we're expecting in Queensland today is the kind of conditions (that other states) have seen in the past - these are the kind of days where people could lose their lives."

The bushfire alert has been upgraded to an emergency warning and QFES is urging local media to use the standard emergency warning signal over the air.

Mark Reiser with joey Emily (10 months) had to evacuate his Deepwater property. Picture: Mark Cranitch
Mark Reiser with joey Emily (10 months) had to evacuate his Deepwater property. Picture: Mark Cranitch


Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said the conditions in the area reminded him of the Ash Wednesday fires in Victoria which he experienced first-hand as a firefighter.

"I'm sure that some people have probably got very good and elaborate systems of pumps and dams and systems and they believe that 'I'll be OK and I know what I'm doing and I've done this before,'" Mr Crawford said.

"Today is not one of those days. Today is different. We are expecting a firestorm."

The firestorm would likely create "dead man zones" which would be impossible to survive, even in a car.

"That's basically a space that you get into where the humidity, the temperature, the fire creates its own weather cell and it becomes an area that is almost unlivable for a short period of time," Mr Crawford said.

"It's the kind of conditions that could consume a vehicle very fast … if we get through today and we haven't had them we will be so fortunate it isn't funny."

It comes as Queensland Fire and Emergency Service chief superintendent Paul Sheath confirmed at least one home was lost last night around Baffle Creek.

He said "about 20 to 30 per cent" of the community is refusing to leave.

They are either underestimating the blaze or do not want to leave their pets.

"Find shelter, try and fight the fire, enact your bushfire plan and call triple-0," Supt Sheath said.

"It might be too late if you're in that situation."

Last night proved fruitful for tireless firefighters who built strong containment lines around the fire.

The fire barely moved last night but today is expected to be the worst this week.

Strong gusty conditions and a storm are highly likely to see the fire burst through containment lines.

More than 80 fires are burning across the state, but the Deepwater fire and another at Dalrymple, west of Mackay, are of the most concern.

The charred entrance to a property at Deepwater. Picture: Mark Cranitch
The charred entrance to a property at Deepwater. Picture: Mark Cranitch


The extremely large and intense fire at Deepwater is expected to impact Baffle Creek, Rules Beach and Oyster Creek this morning.

"We are just asking those residents that are choosing to stay in place, we are trying to advise them that their safest option is not to be there," QFES Assistant Commissioner Gary McCormack told Nine Network.

"We cannot guarantee that we will hold that fire under the conditions that we are currently experiencing. So their safest option is to not be with their property. Life preservation must be their highest priority at this stage."

QFES Commissioner Katarina Carroll said it was incredibly frustrating to have to continually urge residents to leave a clearly dangerous situation.

"We predicted that the circumstances and conditions today were going to be horrific," Ms Carroll said.

"I've got to say, I'm getting a little bit frustrated about delivering the message constantly to leave now. So I implore once more, that you leave now."

Interstate crews arrived yesterday to help fight the inferno in central Queensland that's destroyed homes and burnt through at least 20,000 hectares of bush and farmland since Saturday.

Eight aircraft, including a massive waterbombing plane, which can dump 15,000 litres at a time, are also fighting the fire.

More crews from South Australia are expected to arrive today, and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has indicated she may seek assistance from the army.


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