Queensland fires see 11 schools close as battle to contain blazes continues

| 09.09,19. 06:34 AM |

Queensland fires see 11 schools close as battle to contain blazes continues

Photo: Firefighters have been working around the clock to contain the blazes. (Facebook: Massie & District Rural Fire Brigade)

Queensland remains in the midst of what the state's fire service has warned is the worst bushfire threat in recorded history and an omen of things to come.

Fifty one fires are raging in the state in the worst known start to the bushfire season.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) predictive services inspector Andrew Sturgess said the fire danger had never been as severe so early in spring.

At least 20 structures have been destroyed by fire over three days, mostly in the Gold Coast hinterland, where a large out of control bushfire has been raging for several days.

The State Government said 11 schools across the Granite Belt, Somerset and the Gold Coast hinterland will be closed today due to the bushfire event.

The eight schools closed in the Southern Downs region include Amiens, Applethorpe, Dalveen, Pozieres, Stanthorpe high, Stanthorpe primary, the Summit and Thulimbah state schools.

St Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Stanthorpe and Linville State School in the Somerset region will also close.

While Beechmont State School is the only school closure for the Gold Coast region.

In nearby Binna Burra, a continuing blaze completely destroyed the heritage-listed Binna Burra Lodge, dealing a major blow to the region's economy.

"The only thing we know for sure that has survived is the business car," Steven Noakes, chairman of Binna Burra Lodge, said.

"That represents nine decades of Binna Burra as of a physical item as of today, that one car."

Binna Burra is a mid-sized tourism business with 70 staff and a turnover of $5-6 million, making it the biggest single employer in the community in Beechmont.

As fire conditions change and warnings are downgraded and reissued, Queenslanders are being warned to remain vigilant.

In Applethorpe, some families have been allowed to return home while others are yet to survey the devastation.

Police Commissioner Kevin Walsh said residents who have evacuated should not return home unless they have permission from authorities.

"We're starting a process with some residents that are potentially able to return to their premises to look after urgent matters, particularly animal welfare," he said.

"We are seeing how many of those people we can get back to their houses under escort for a brief time.

"If you have not made arrangements with us to return to your house, you still cannot return — it's not safe."

Water shortages, falling trees hamper efforts

But it is not just the obvious dangers that are preventing people from returning home.

What is a catastrophic fire?

"One of the major issues we face at the moment is that many of the gum trees in the area have been burnt at the base and they are falling unpredictably making vehicle travel very dangerous," Commissioner Walsh said.

While drought conditions are proving challenging for firefighters in the Southern Downs region.

Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie says water maybe need to be trucked into the town earlier than expected, with fire crew using the region's water to fight blazes.

"Our town water here in Stanthorpe is supplied out of Storm King Dam and that is due to expire in December or January," Cr Dobie said.

"We'll assess over the next 48 hours, once the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service no needs to draw on that supply, well assess what that means for the long term supply of that water.

"We already have plans well down the track to supply emergency water to Stanthorpe, the trucking on that water, and that can commence earlier than originally planned.

Conditions are volatile and not expected to ease before Tuesday or Wednesday.


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