Australia’s Fire Threat Worsens as QLD & NSW Residents Flee Blazes

Fire crews report intense fires are fuelled by high fuel loads as forest experts push for more hazard reduction burning to prevent disaster

Tue 31 Oct 23


There have been several emergency bushfire warnings issued in NSW and Southern Queensland as the East Coast of Australia battles fierce bushfires.

Yesterday, the Wood Central publisher spoke to exhausted fire crews battling multiple fires close to the HQPlantation estate – in South East Queensland.

And this afternoon, the NSW RFS issued several evacuation orders, including the Nothern Rivers region and a grass fire “impinging” on an explosives storage facility near Ulan, east of Dubbo in Central NSW.

Australia Zoo is still under threat

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services continue to battle fires in the boundary of the iconic Australia Zoo.

Fire crews are working to extinguish a fresh fire at Landsborough, just a few kilometres from the 283-hectare zoo operated by the Irwin family.

The “large-fast-moving fire” remains at a watch and act level and travels towards Hardwood Road, close to the zoo.

Residents between Steve Irwin Way, Graham Drive, Fraser Road and Hardwood Road have been warned that “conditions could get worse quickly” and that they should be prepared to leave.

Locals are being urged to prepare as a fast-moving fire approaches Australia Zoo. (Photo Credit: QFES)

Wood Central spoke to fire crews close to the HQPlantations plantations, who said there are currently multiple arson-lit fires that are currently being fought close to the plantations.

Perfect storm as Queensland faces worst fire season since the 1950s

Queensland fire crews are battling their worst fire season in 70 years, with exhausted crews battling 420 fires over the seven days alone.

As it stands, there are 60 fires across the state, with an out-of-control blaze in the Beerah State Forest – close to the HQPlantation forest extinguished overnight.

On Saturday night, the police declared a public emergency near Landsborough, with 60 fire trucks and aerial water bombers deployed to keep the fire under control.

According to Justin Choveaux, the General Manager of the Rural Fire Brigade Association, the conditions result from a “generational fire season that is a force of nature”.

“You can’t stop these, no matter how many people you throw in front of it,” Mr Choveaux said, and continued “, the last time we’ve seen the stars line up for a fire season like this was the 1950s.”

The current fire conditions have already been likened to the infamous Black Summer fires from 2019/20, with Queensland’s Assistant Fire Commissioner Peter Hollier warning that the conditions will likely deteriorate further.

“The Black Summer fires happened somewhat later [in the season] than the period we’re currently in,” Mr Hollier said.

“If we don’t get that rain, certainly, we’re looking at a very, very active fire season.”

Footage courtesy of @9NewsAus.

The Black Summer fires famously started in South East Queensland in August 2019 before shifting southwards through spring and ending during January.

The largest fire in Australian recorded history, the fires destroyed millions of hectares of forest, caused the death of 3 billion native animals and even led to a ‘deep, long-lived hole in the ozone layer.’

In total, more than 18 million hectares, 5.4 million alone in NSW, were burnt, with 26 fatalities directly related to fires.

To extinguish fires, Mr Choveaux said the state needed “at least 250 to 300mm” of rain to extinguish the current fire risk.

However Shane Kennedy from the Bureau of Meteorology warned there was little on the horizon for the remainder of spring and summer.

“The forecast was for an above-average or worse-than-usual fire season for most southern and central Queensland, and that’s unfortunately bearing out,” he said.

So far, over 30 homes have already been destroyed by fires, mainly in the Darling Downs.

Yesterday Queensland Police Service spokesperson Jeremy Sheldrick reported that work has commenced on developing temporary accommodation with residents desperate to return to survey the damage.

“Planning is underway, at this point, for that to occur — that’s a joint arrangement that is continuing through our local disaster management groups to ensure that public safety is number one and no one’s going to get hurt,” he said.

“We want to make sure that they go back into a safe environment.”

Joe Cullen, the Rural Fire Service Divisional Commander Inspector, said fires are burning fiercely and moving quickly.

“The fuel is so dry, it’s moving forward unimpeded to the west,” he said. 

Mr Cullen said it was difficult for firefighters to know who had left and who had stayed behind to try and save their houses on their own.

“There are several residents who have decided to stay and try to defend. That’s putting a lot of stress on our crews,” he said before continuing, “We’re asking people to leave immediately. It’s a dangerous situation to be in.”

“It’s dangerous for our crews, and they have all the equipment and training. We need residents of the area to decide to stay out of the way of the fire, so our crews don’t have to have extra people around they have to protect.”

Footage courtesy of @9NewsAus.

In June, Wood Central exclusively reported that Australia should prepare for a “catastrophic 2023-24 bushfire season.”

That assessment came from three professional foresters who have observed current pastoral conditions across three states.

That included Peter Lear, who worked for the Queensland Department of Forestry from 1971 until 1987.

The stint included a four year period in the Dalby (close to where the most dangerous fires are currently burning), which takes in the cypress forests of Queensland. 

The whole countryside is carrying a body of grass as big or bigger than ever in my memory,” he said.

“My dominant thoughts after the journey were that 2023 could end up being a catastrophic fire season.”

“If this comes to pass, I don’t think it would take a genius to predict headlines such as ‘unprecedented.'”

According to John Cameron and Roger Underwood, prescribed burning and hazard reduction are crucial to reducing the risk of fires becoming out-of-control blazes.

“A key point to make is that prescribed burns should be ‘cool burns’ at low fire intensity (white, not black smoke),” Mr Cameron said in an exclusive article for Wood Central.

“They should not cause too much canopy scorch and only burn 70% to 90% of the coupe. This generally requires igniting points rather than lines; completing the coupe may take two or three visits.”

Roger Underwood, a former district and regional forest manager and a specialist in bushfire operations, policy and history, supports the “Australian Approach”, which accepts that an emergency response will always be needed since bushfires can never be prevented.

For over 20 years, Mr Underwood was Chair of the Bushfire Front, an organisation dedicated to minimising bushfire damage in Western Australia.

“Planned burning is also used to maintain or improve biodiversity, protect cultural values, and manage agricultural production,” he said.

“Carrying out planned burning operations also contributes to building the on-ground expertise of the bushfire response personnel.”

Australia’s bushfire seasons. (Photo Credit: Supplied by the Australian Bureau of Metrology)

Last month, the Bureau of Metrology declared that Australia has a positive El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean and a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD).

It is the first time in eight years that the two weather events have occurred together.

Bushfire season typically runs from December to May in southern Australia, May to October in northern Australia and August to March in central Australia.


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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