Queensland counts cost of recovery from deadly fires

Suzanne Simonot |

More than 130 structures have been destroyed by fire in the past month in Queensland.
More than 130 structures have been destroyed by fire in the past month in Queensland.

Queensland’s disastrous bushfire season has claimed four lives, destroyed dozens of homes, damaged vital rural infrastructure and stretched resources as firefighters battled more than 1000 blazes in the past month.

And they’re not done yet.

More than 50 Fire and Rescue Service and Rural Fire Service vehicles were dealing with 50 blazes across Queensland on Tuesday as the state counted the cost of 1000 fires since October 21. 

More than a million hectares have burnt across the state since August 1, a Queensland Fire and Emergency Services spokesman said.

Prepare-to-leave notices were in place on Tuesday afternoon for Jondaryan, near Dalby in the Western Downs region, and Rockyview, near Rockhampton, with residents warned conditions could get worse quickly.

A file photo of a fire
Firefighters have battled more than 1000 blazes in the state in the past month.

“We really want to emphasise that the season is not over yet,” Rural Fire Service Queensland Superintendent James Haig said.

“We’re still seeing some new fires and that means that we need our communities to maintain that awareness, not to think that because we had a little bit of good weather in some parts of the state for a week or so that everything’s great.” 

Heightened bushfire conditions are expected to return to large parts of the state on Wednesday and Thursday with maximum temperatures in the high 30s to low 40s in the central and southern regions.

A severe heatwave warning is in place for the Northern Goldfields and Upper Flinders, Central Highlands and Coalfields, Central West, Channel Country, Wide Bay and Burnett and Southeast Coast districts until Friday.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles told parliament on Tuesday more than 130 structures had been destroyed by fires in the past month.

“More than 60 households were assisted with emergency accommodation in hotels, motels and caravans in the Western Downs alone,” he said.

“It’s estimated that 729km of fencing, 32km of private roads and 301km of levees and channels have also been damaged.”

A file photo of Steven Miles
Deputy Premier Steven Miles paid tribute to firefighters, who he said had done an incredible job.

More than $420,000 in hardship payments have been made to in excess of 2000 eligible Queenslanders from 15 local government areas – numbers Mr Miles said would “continue to increase”.

In the Western Downs, 23 caravans moved to the Tara showgrounds are providing temporary accommodation for 13 households.

More than 360 large square bales of fodder have been delivered to bushfire-affected farmers, with a Bushfire Fodder Taskforce established to assist primary producers seeking emergency livestock feed.

“Queensland’s firefighters including our Rural Fire Service, assisted by volunteers from interstate, have done an incredible job to keep communities safe and protect properties from bushfires,” Mr Miles said.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk paid tribute to those who had lost their lives in the fires.

“Four lives have been lost including three firefighters whose plane crashed near Cloncurry, among them, a young American who’d joined the firefighting effort in Australia simply because he wanted to help,” she told parliament.

“We owe them a debt we can never repay.”