ON FIRE: Hazy skies over Emerald today caused by a grass fire adjacent to Carnarvon Highway in the Upper Dawson region.
ON FIRE: Hazy skies over Emerald today caused by a grass fire adjacent to Carnarvon Highway in the Upper Dawson region. Taylor Battersby

Smoky start to day

RURAL Fire Service primary producer brigades have been fighting tirelessly this week - together with Parks and Wildlife - to protect grass and feedlots on their properties from being threatened by fires burning near the Carnarvon Highway and surrounding areas.

Rural Fire Service area director for Emerald- Barcaldine Chris Spencer said crews are battling a grass fire burning adjacent to the Carnarvon Highway near the Boxvale State Forest in the Upper Dawson region.

He said the fire was being contained with the help of extensive back burning operations.

One lane of the highway has been closed and motorists are urged to drive carefully, switching on headlights and slowing to give fire fighters space.

"We've got people on scene to manage that fire and we will have an aircraft up tomorrow mapping the fires,” Mr Spencer said.

Fires are also burning in inaccessible country in the Presho State Forest area and the northern part of Canarvon National Park and some blazes, he said, had been burning since November last year.

"We didn't get the rain down there we were hoping for and the fires have been escalated with the current temps,” Mr Spencer said.

"The safest option is to wait for fires to come down to where they're safe to manage and where they can be accessed.

"The primary producers have been working tirelessly to help manage these fires and without them we wouldn't have the capability that we do.

"Because they haven't had much rain, what's important to the landowners is the feedlots and they have to protect the grass for the cattle.”

Mr Spencer said primary producers, who were also Rural Fire Services volunteers, had used their personal vehicles to help fire crews this week, and had worked through the night and when needed since the end of last year.

"They (volunteers) are supplied with a 500-litre tank and a pump and hose and they can put them on the back of their vehicles as required.”

Mr Spencer said the threat to properties, land and homes would be "so much higher” without the dedication of local volunteers.

"It's an unusual season so far. We've still got SES and swift water crews out at Windorah and they're following the flood waters down from Winton.”

He said the fire danger for today was 'very high', while earlier in the week it was 'severe'.

Tomorrow the danger is again expected to be 'very high'.

"On Wednesday, Emerald was the hottest part of Queensland and that's unusual for this time of year,” he said.

"We've got very low humidity levels and south-westerly winds which is conducive for carrying fire very well.

"We've got a very high active fire season even with the rain out west and up north - people still need to be vigilant.

"We've got pockets that haven't had rain and there can be significant consequences from misuse of fire.

"It's not time to be complacent. There's still conditions that will carry fire.”

He said there continued to be a suspension on fire permits for the Central Highlands and Coalfields.

"We're asking landowners that if they're using outside equipment to be vigilant of stray sparks.”

Other causes of fires could be unattended camp fires and incinerators influenced by the wind.

Mr Spencer said if locals saw a fire, even if they thought it had been reported, they should call 000.

Residents affected by smoke should close windows and doors, and keep respiratory medications close by. If you feel your property is under threat, call 000 immediately.


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