Countdown to disaster as 48-hour nightmare begins

THOUSANDS of troops are on standby to help battle the country's bushfire crisis, as Queensland braces for two days of horror fire conditions.

Almost 60 fires were last night burning across the state, with 100,000ha and nine homes already destroyed and firefighters warning the worst is yet to come.

Southeast Queenslanders have been warned to stay indoors and school sport has been cancelled after the widespread fires burning across Queensland and NSW saw air quality dip to unprecedented poor levels.

Scorching temperatures and high winds will push fire danger to severe and extreme in some parts of the state today and tomorrow, with Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Acting Inspector Joel Gordon saying the threat was very real.

Fires threaten in the Spicer Gap area, near Aratula, on Monday 11th November 2019. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Fires threaten in the Spicer Gap area, near Aratula, on Monday 11th November 2019. Picture: Steve Pohlner

"With conditions as they are, and the ground is so drought-stressed, fires are going to get up and running exceptionally quickly," he said. "It's very hard for us to identify particular areas of concern or risk at this time.

"Central Queensland, the north coast, and south-east regions are the main focus, but we can't really narrow it down … the number (of fires) will increase over the next few days as the fire activity increases."

It comes as New South Wales braces for catastrophic fire conditions, with temperatures in the high-30s and winds over 80km/h expected to make it impossible for firefighters to control more than 60 blazes, which have already killed three people, destroyed 200 homes and sheds and burned 970,000ha of land.

In Queensland, at the last official count, nine homes had been lost as a result of the fires, and 100,000ha of land razed.

The fire warning was sitting at a severe grade, however, it was expected to rise to extreme in parts of the state by Tuesday.

QFES fight a bushfire at Noosa. Picture: Facebook, Queensland Fire and Emergency Service
QFES fight a bushfire at Noosa. Picture: Facebook, Queensland Fire and Emergency Service

"The elevated fire conditions will impact us this afternoon, and then definitely by Wednesday we're going to see the height, or the peak, of the fire dangers in the state," Acting Inspector Gordon said.

"Once we get into daylight hours (today), we're going to see the severe conditions that are impacting down south start to make their way up the NSW coast and into Queensland and inland."

Although the fires are escalating, official advice from emergency services remains the same - follow your Fire Survival Plan and ensure preparations are in place to keep pets and livestock safe.

The declared state of fire emergency has seen firefighters, including two strike teams from New Zealand and other resources from Tasmania, working around the clock.

Dick Buckham on his property at Callandah/Terome fixing fences after fighting bushfires for days, near Aratula, on Monday 11th November 2019. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Dick Buckham on his property at Callandah/Terome fixing fences after fighting bushfires for days, near Aratula, on Monday 11th November 2019. Picture: Steve Pohlner

Although emergency services are battling fatigue, Acting Inspector Gordon assures they have what it takes to ­battle the ­ferocious blaze.

"We are prepared," he said. "We are committed to this fire campaign and we will ensure that we have adequate resources to meet the demands."

Are you prepared for heightened bushfire conditions this week?

This poll ended on 15 November 2019.

Current Results

Yes, I'm ready to evacuate if I need to.

60%

No, I'm not too worried.

33%

I'm not sure.

6%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Defence was placed on standby yesterday to send thousands of troops to help the bushfire crisis.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds wrote to the chief of the Australian Defence Force General Angus Campbell to give the exceptional order to his commanders to "make it clear" they had the authority to deploy defence resources as they saw fit at a local level to deal with emergencies.

Road closures in the Adelaide Park area west of Yeppoon. Picture: Steve Vit
Road closures in the Adelaide Park area west of Yeppoon. Picture: Steve Vit

Senator Reynolds said that the forecast of catastrophic fires throughout the country was "deeply worrying". She authorised General Campbell to make the order under Defence Assistance to the Civil Community Category 1 protocols, which effectively primes thousands of troops and vehicles for deployment.

"While our ADF personnel are not trained firefighters, they can provide other support for the nation's frontline first responders," she said.



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