Access to Fraser Island off southeast Queensland will be restricted from 5:00 p.m. today as authorities fight an out of control bushfire that has been burning for weeks.
Greg Leach, Queensland Fire and Rescue Commissioner (QFES), announced that conditions on the island north of Brisbane are expected to deteriorate over the next few days.
He said anyone planning a trip to Fraser Island should take the opportunity to cancel their plans.
« Turn around and go home as there is limited access to the island from 5:00 pm today, » Leach said.
Residents, campers and visitors already on the island have been asked to restrict their movements and not use inland roads.
The fire has been on since an illegal campfire started on Jan.. October 72. 000 hectares of land burned on the world heritage island.
Reinforcements were sent in today to consolidate the control lines on Fraser Island ahead of an adverse wind change forecast for this weekend.
Michael Koch, director of the rural fire department, said the wind should change from south to north on Sunday and could potentially direct the bushfire on the Happy Valley communities and cathedrals on the east side of the island.
This morning the fire was north of Kingfisher Bay Resort on the west side of the island.
« The direction of fire movements is largely in the hands of the weather, but if the resort is at risk we will receive a timely message, » Leach said.
« We have worked closely with the resort operators who are able to take action [and evacuate] if necessary. «
15 crews were dispatched to the fire department including firefighters, Queensland parks, wildlife rangers and Butchulla rangers.
So far, depth charges could not cope with the dense vegetation and sandy bottoms of the island.
Mr. Leach said technicians also mapped the likely spread of the fire over the next few days.
« We dispatched a team of specialist fire behavior analysts and map teams today, » he said.
« It is very dry at the moment – there has been no significant rainfall on the island for some time. «
ABC Emergency received advice from officials on planning a bushfire, including preparing a survival kit.
« We know from conversations with firefighters that much of the wildlife escapes from the fire in the southern part of the island, » he said.
« The fire is moving pretty slowly at the moment, giving wildlife a chance to get out of the way. «
The Logan, Scenic Rim, Ipswich, Lockyer Valley, Somerset and Gold Coast areas are prohibited from fires Saturday through Wednesday.
A heat wave is forecast for parts of Queensland this weekend and next week. According to QFES, conditions were « perfect for bushfires to ignite and spread quickly ». .
Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour said it would take rain to put out the bushfire that had blackened 40 percent of the island so far.
« While the easterly winds may seem pretty idyllic at the moment, there are a lot of happy campers here on the beach I am on, but we know that can change very quickly, » he said.
« Elsewhere on the island the fire is still blazing – we need rain . . . that will erase it. «
Happy Valley community residents and business owners remain vigilant after the fire raged in the area earlier this week.
« On Tuesday we were told there might be embers, so we made some preparations – rake leaves, wet gardens, » said Darren Smith, manager of the Fraser Island Retreat.
« As it turned out, there was no embers at all, so everything was fine. It is better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
Campers Jacob Forbes and Katie Stilgoe stay on the east side of the island and said they felt safe.
Mr Forbes decided to continue his trip after receiving an aerial view of the island on his flight to work in Mackay.
« We could see Lake McKenzie clearly and I said, ‘Call and book this barge, we’re going camping,' » he said.
« We were a little careful, but it seems fine, » added Ms. Stilgoe.
« We all keep our fingers crossed for rain – that’s the only thing that will put out this fire. «
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AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time, 10 hours before GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)
Fraser Island, Australia Bushfires, Kingfisher Bay Resort, Queensland Fire and Rescue Services, Island
World News – AU – Access to Fraser Island is restricted as bushfires stop at 72. 000 hectares are on fire
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