ON ALERT: QFES Deputy Group Officer for Warwick Alan Payne said the conditions for destructive fires are extreme and haven't been this bad since 2002.
ON ALERT: QFES Deputy Group Officer for Warwick Alan Payne said the conditions for destructive fires are extreme and haven't been this bad since 2002. Michael Nolan

Our region is at risk of large and uncontrollable fires

IT IS looking like the 2018 fire season could be one of the worst in recent decades with plenty of dry grass pocketed around the Southern Downs waiting for a spark.

State wide emergency services were called to 290 fires over the weekend.

A fire on Saturday, August 18, ripped through a property near Leyburn destroying 20 cars and a shipping container while a second fire at Severnlea came close to burning down the community's Uniting Church..

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Service's Deputy Group Officer for Warwick, Alan Payne, said the local crews are prepared for a spike in fires in the coming weeks.

"Over the next two to three days were looking art dry conditions with strong winds," he said.

"There is a very severe fire danger at present."

There are serous concerns for country south for Warwick extending to the New South Wales border and on western flank of the Southern Downs, around Karara, Leyburn and Pratten.

Most of the recent fires were started from controlled burns that broke through containment barriers and took off.

To prevent this from happening again QFES have put a blanket ban on any hazard reduction burns.

Mr Payne said the heat transfer from a controlled burn can easily create whirlwinds which throws sparks and flames that can easily land on dry clumps of frost-bitten grass.

"The fuel on the ground is devoid of all moisture," he said.

"It doesn't take much for fires to kick off."

The conditions have been made worse by the long running drought.

In a normal season cattle and sheep would have eaten a good amount of the pasture grass but with so many farmers destocking due to water shortages there are too few animals to keep those fuel loads in check.

"A lot of places have been eaten out but other have not," Mr Payne said.

"It's far worse than last year,"

"We have the same conditions as 2002 when we had a run of fires that burnt out a large area of the Southern Downs."

At the same time a good number of smaller trees and shrubs have died off.

This means we have a terror trifecta where the surface level grasses, mid-level shrubs and canopy trees are all dry.

"When you get a combination of all three you reach the really extreme fire danger," Mr Payne said.

"We are in a bad situation and we're only just getting into fire season."

Residents are reminded to clear all debris from their properties, develop a firm evacuation plan, clear their fence lines and hold off using open flames outside.

"We are expecting a busy time but we are all on alert for it," Mr Payne said.

If you see a fire call 000 immediately.



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