Part of Queensland is bracing for extreme bushfires this week as the country officially enters the El Nino period.
While firefighters managed to get “dozens” of bushfires under control on Tuesday, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Greg Leach said Thursday will be day of concern for parts of the state.
“We’ve got difficult conditions coming up in the week, particularly Thursday, so we want to make sure we’ve got that fire contained before Thursday,” he said.
“Many areas will be on high (fire alert) and some areas in the Channel Country will be in the extreme fire danger rating.”
The Bureau of Meteorology forecasts Brisbane will reach tops of 35 degrees on Thursday, while Townsville and Bundaberg will see temperatures of 30 degrees and 32 degrees respectively.
Mr Leach said the state was not issuing any total fire bans, unlike NSW which declared a total fire ban on Tuesday, but would continue to monitor changing conditions.
He urged people to “aware of those conditions and have their bushfire plan in place”.
Mr Leach said firefighters had managed to contain several fires across the state, including south of Townsville, Bundaberg and on the Darling Downs.
“The main fire of interest at the moment remains the Beerwah fire (on the Sunshine Coast) where today conditions have abated somewhat and firefighters have been successful in getting a mineral earth break around that fire,” he said.
“There is some areas of unburnt full within the containment line and this afternoon they’re going to do a test burn to see whether the conditions are safe to burn out that remaining part of unburnt fuel to ensure that fire is brought out to its containment line.”
Our crews on the ground at Beerwah will conduct backburning operations this afternoon to secure unburnt country and reduce fuel loads.
Don't be alarmed if you notice a lot of smoke in the area, but always keep up to date with official QFES warnings in case conditions change. pic.twitter.com/fqlwTIo2iG
— Qld Fire & Emergency (@QldFES) September 19, 2023
It comes as the state’s rural fire brigade numbers were questioned on Tuesday for being too low to manage a potentially intense upcoming fire season.
Mr Leach confirmed the there were currently 26500 firefighter volunteers across the state after a recent audit was carried out, which was a “more accurate reflection of operation strength”.
“That’s down from 35,000 five years ago but during that time we’ve been through significant refresh around our data,” he said.
“Part of that process was around Blue Card, which gave us the opportunity to review our records which might not have been robust as they could have been.
“So, going through to check with our volunteers about their Blue Card, we’ve discovered that some of them were no longer active with their brigades, some had moved away, some had passed away and so we’ve refreshed our numbers.”
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services minister Mark Ryan said Queenslanders will have enough resources to protect them ahead of the summer.
“The amazing fire people who make up the rural fire service, of course we honour them and admire their contribution immensely, but they are not only agency that respond to this sort of emergency,” Mr Ryan said.
“There’s of course the volunteers who are outstanding but there are also paid staff … who support and operationalise responses when emergency strike.”
The bushfire warnings comes as the rest of Australia’s south east continues to manage high temperatures, with a severe heatwave warning issued from Monday to Wednesday in NSW.
Temperatures reached 14 degrees higher than usual in large parts of the country, reaching the mid 30s for the first half of the week.
More than 20 public schools were shut down across New South Wales amid extreme fire danger warnings along the South Coast.
The bureau declared that El Nino on Tuesday, warning warmer and drier conditions have already been forecast for spring and summer for parts of Australia.