'Days ahead of us': Fire threat far from over
FIRE fighters stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the path of walls of "floating fire" while shocked Queenslanders returned home to devastation and disaster yesterday, with authorities warning the state would continue to burn for days.
Nearly 70 fires were yesterday burning across Queensland as Stanthorpe and Gold Coast Hinterland locals were warned the fight was far from over.
At least 17 homes were lost - 10 in Sarabah and seven in Stanthorpe - with one family flown to safety by helicopter after becoming trapped on their hinterland property.
Many communities were evacuated, with residents forced to flee to safety in the middle of the night to community centres where they slept in caravans and tents.
Last night residents in the Granite Belt town of Applethorpe were told to leave as fires worsened in the area.
"The thing I need to talk to you about is this fire is still an ongoing concern," Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Assistant Commissioner Megan Stiffler told a community meeting at Stanthorpe late yesterday.
"We will not have this fire under control until Monday. We have days ahead of us and lots of hard work to do through the night to secure all edges of this fire.
"I need the community to be aware there are people within this community who have lost their home and we can't say how many at this time."
At another community meeting, in the Gold Coast hinterland, QFES Assistant Commissioner Kevin Walsh said he had never seen anything like the fire front that tore through communities like Sarabah and Beechmont.
"The conditions they faced last night were ferocious," he said.
"They stood shoulder to shoulder on the front line.
"I've never seen anything as bad as that."
Scenic Rim Mayor Greg Christensen praised the legions of firefighters - many of them volunteers - who took on the fires that threatened to engulf Beechmont on Friday night.
"As a rural firey myself, to see them standing against a wall of floating fire as embers came at them constantly on the wind, they did an amazing job," he said.
Locals told of waking in the middle of the night to police banging on their door, while others described a "pink glow" that turned to a life-threatening raging inferno in a matter of minutes.
Around 20 fire appliances from metropolitan and regional fire stations fought fires alongside countless volunteers, helped by three aerial bombers and a reconnaissance plane.
A man in his 20s was taken to hospital after he collapsed while helping to fight a fire in the Clagiraba region in the Gold Coast hinterland.
He was treated for smoke inhalation, exhaustion and an injury to his jaw.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was yesterday briefed by emergency service officials about the disaster before she left the country last night on an Olympics bid mission.
She urged locals in affected areas to listen to the warnings and follow the directions of emergency services.
"We have a number of families at the moment that are actually going through some really traumatic times," she said.
"I know that our community will pull together and definitely make sure they get back on their feet."