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Queensland bushfires: firefighters brace for worsening conditions

Raging bushfires are expected to be exacerbated in Queensland over the next two days as dry winds return fanning scores of blazes across the state.

The fire danger in the south and southeast has returned to very high for Friday and Saturday, and it could reach severe to extreme levels by the middle of next week.

The prime minister, Scott Morrison, will travel to Scenic Rim on Friday to inspect damage, amid close to a dozen homes burning down. Meanwhile, Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk will visit Stanthorpe.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services assistant commissioner, John Bolger, said crews had used the last couple of benign weather days to strengthen containment lines. Fifty-five fires are burning across the state.

Bolger said crews were welcoming reinforcements from interstate.

“We have 100 firefighters from Victoria and South Australia. As a matter of interest, we’ve got two New Zealanders flying in today. They are going into Rockhampton as air attack supervisors,” he told ABC TV on Friday morning.

A dry southwesterly wind is expected to sweep southern parts of Queensland from Friday morning, with temperatures also expected to be four to five degrees above the September average.

The state government is turning its mind to recovery plans for fire affected communities, with a focus on rebuilding their economies.

A recovery taskforce is due to meet in the Gold Coast hinterland on Friday, along with another group focused on economic recovery.

State development minister Cameron Dick says support will be offered to people whose livelihoods have been affected by the fires, including workers from the Binna Burra lodge, which was destroyed.

Acting fire commissioner Mike Wassing says Queensland faces a long period of danger through spring and summer.

“This will continue for weeks and potentially months. There is no outlook for rain.”

“What we’ve seen is extraordinary dry conditions, with the extremes of high winds and high temperatures,” he said on Thursday. “This will continue for weeks and potentially months. There is no outlook for rain.”

Winds are forecast to pick up at the weekend, and from Monday to Wednesday temperatures in half of the state will be hotter than the average.

Police are looking closely at 22 fires to determine if they were lit on purpose, with the commissioner, Katarina Carroll, saying a taskforce has found 13 were caused by an accident, reckless behaviour or deliberate acts.

Authorities say there is an element of survivor’s guilt in parts of the Gold Coast hinterland, where some homes were razed while others were left untouched.

Scenic Rim’s mayor, Greg Christensen, has been trying to steer his community through disaster. “Tragedy comes and goes in life,” he said on Thursday.

“How it affects us is determined by how much we can focus on the joy inside of us being greater than that which is affecting us from the outside.”

In NSW, firefighters could be given some reprieve with weather conditions expected to be “reasonably benign” in coming days.

But another bushfire was keeping them busy in the Northern Tablelands area on Thursday night, with concerns that it could threaten properties.

The Rural Fire Service issued a “watch and act” warning – which was later downgraded to “advice” – for a fire east of Glen Innes. The RFS advised that spot fires ahead of the fire front could threaten properties in the Newton Boyd area.

Warnings for three massive blazes at Bees Nest near Armidale, Drake near Tenterfield, and Shark Creek in the Clarence Valley remained at “advice” levels as firefighters kept working to bring them under control.

Several regions will experience very high fire danger on Friday, including the far north coast, New England and the northern slopes. The north coast, greater Hunter and Illawarra regions are among those with a high fire danger rating.

A Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster, Neale Fraser, said while it is expected to remain dry and some areas would face very high fire danger, the weather would be “reasonably benign” in coming days.

He said a high pressure system meant winds aren’t going to be a factor.

Longer term, he added, conditions could potentially worsen towards the end of next week.

 

SOURCE: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/sep/13/queensland-bushfires-firefighters-brace-for-worsening-conditions

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