The worst bushfires in 40 years have ripped through several parts of Queensland, killing two people and wiping out 16 homes so far.
A man died on Tuesday night while protecting his property in Tara, and a woman died on Wednesday after suffering cardiac arrest while trying to evacuate.
Gusty and dry winds are fuelling the out-of-control bushfires, with flames in some areas reaching up to 20m.
Queensland Rural Fire Service Assistant Commissioner Peter Hollier said crews had been working hard to bring 60 blazes under control.
“Overnight, we’ve had some storms come through and it saddens me to report that we’ve been absolutely peppered in the area with dry lightning that resulted in five new ignitions,” he said.
Friday was still expected to being “extreme fire danger” but authorities were hoping to establish containment lines for the Tara fire, he added.
“Fatigue is certainly being managed,” he said.
Superintendent Wayne Waltisbuhl said firefighters had not “really been able” to contain the Tara bushfire so far.
“This is my 43rd fire season,” he said.
“This is the worst conditions I’ve seen over those years.
“We’ve seen fire behaviour at night time that (caused) some really good and experienced firefighters last night to ring up and go ‘we’ve never seen this sort of fire behaviour at night’.”
Superintendent Waltisbuhl said several years of wet weather, followed by a period of drought, had created difficult conditions.
“We’ve got this ladder fuel combination of grasses on the ground, linking up to middle strata, and then right up to the canopy,” he said.
“There were 20m flames coming out on the top of the forest out there and spotting into people’s yards and fires start straight away.”
Emergency warnings are currently in place for Undullah, Mutchilba (near Mareeba), Halliford (near Dalby), and Wieambilla where there are multiple warnings.
Queensland Fire and Rescue Services warned people needed to leave and take shelter.
“Leave immediately … your life could be at risk,” QFES said in a statement.
“It will soon be too dangerous to drive.”
Firefighting aircraft were assisting firefighters on the ground while current fire conditions were deemed by the QFES to be “perfect for bushfires to ignite and spread quickly”.
QFES Inspector Warren Buckley warned residents on Wednesday to listen to any advice from authorities.
“I’m not going to mince words here, it’s a dangerous fire,” Inspector Buckley said.
“This is going to go on for a long time, we’re planning for this to go on past Christmas and early next year.
“It will be a long campaign until we get some rain.”
Fire bans are in place in the Northern and Central Regions on Thursday.
Bans will remain in place in Richmond, Flinders and Charters Towers local government areas until Sunday.
Fire bans for Rockhampton, Livingstone, Mackay, Whitsundays, Isaac, Central Highlands, Barcaldine, Blackall-Tambo, Longreach, Barcoo, Winton, Gladstone and Banana Local Government Areas will remain until Thursday November 2.
Elevated fire dangers will persist across much of the country’s north on Thursday, with severe to extreme heatwave conditions about the Top End and extreme fire dangers through western and southwestern Queensland.
Catastrophic conditions remain in place for the Barkly North district on Thursday, while catastrophic and extreme conditions will persist in the NT and western Queensland on Friday.
Conditions are expected to ease on Saturday when fire dangers could return to the south of the country.
QFES have warned residents impacted by the current emergency warnings in western Queensland that power, water and mobile phone services could soon stop working.
“Smoke will make it hard to see and breathe … the smoke will sting your eyes,” the QFES said in the warning.
“It will be hot and loud, you may hear explosions nearby.
“The sky will be dark, you could be isolated.
“Firefighters may not be able to stop the fire from getting closer – do not expect a firefighter at your door.”