Fire season warning issued at Qld's 'ground zero'
BUSHFIRE season was officially launched today as the Minister for Fire and Emergency Craig Crawford services met officials at North Rockhampton Fire station.
He said Rockhampton was a fitting place to meet as it was "ground-zero" for fire disasters late last year - a year he was confident would not be repeated this season.
"Where we are now is a very similar position to where we were, this time last year, but we don't believe we will have a season as bad," Minister Crawford said.
Fire prevention had been front of mind for the minister during the lead in to this fire season.
"QFES and National Parks have been working their guts out over the last six to 12 months, not only combating those fires but preparing Queensland for this fire season which begins today," Mr Crawford said.
The Gold Coast, Wide Bay and Bundaberg areas were already seeing fire activity according to the Minister.
He said it was time Central Queensland land owners started carrying out "last-minute" preparations to ready their properties for bushfires.
"Now is the time to be engaging in mitigation of fuel that you may have, whether it's burning it, slashing it or cutting it," he said.
According to Mr Crawford, Queensland Parks and Wildlife had burned over a million hectares of land in in preparation for the 2019/20 bushfire season, which was 62 per cent higher than the departments target.
The Minister's visit also marked an expansion of Queensland's fire fleet with 119 new fire fighting vehicles joining the fire front, including vehicles for rural brigades in Central Queensland.
"Fire season is here, we are seeing fire activity in Central Queensland, now is the time I need (landowners) to do that last minute work around your property to get rid of that fuel," Mr Crawford said.
He said traffic movement problems, identified during the evacuation of Gracemere last year, including people entering the evacuation area and people having trouble fleeing were unprecedented.
"QFES has never ever used an emergency alert system to evacuate population of that size in that kind of time frame," Mr Crawford said.
He said focus has been put on better planning for evacuations of that scale but urged people not to re-enter live evacuation zones.
Steve Barber, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services assistant commissioner said a "tremendous" amount of learning came from last year's fire season.
"We have put a number of those learnings into place," he said.
"One of our biggest learnings was about forward planning, and about the underestimation of fire weather that would impact on bushfires.
"There were also significant learnings surrounding joint community messaging."
Mr Barber said there were now fire service members dedicated to seven-day forward planning.
Minister Crawford said interstate agreements allowing states to share fire fighting resources, including aircraft and personnel, will remain in place and bolster Queensland's fire defence capabilities.