More towns told to ‘leave immediately’
RESIDENTS of three more central Queensland areas have been told to evacuate as a "very dangerous" fire approaches. Firefighters continue to battle more than 100 blazes across the state.
The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services issued a "leave immediately" warning at about 11.45am for the town of Winfield, southeast of Baffle Creek, as well as for Captain Creek, southwest of Agnes Water.
"If you do not have a plan, your safest option is to leave immediately if it is clear to do so," both warnings said.
"If you cannot leave, identify where you will seek shelter from the bushfire. If you are not in the area, do not return, as conditions are too dangerous."
The QFES said "a large and unpredictable fire is travelling in southerly direction towards the Winfield community.
"The fire is expected to have a significant impact on the community within the hour.
"Conditions are now very dangerous and firefighters may soon be unable to prevent the fire advancing.
"The fire may pose a threat to all lives directly in its path. Fire crews may not be able to protect your property. You should not expect a firefighter at your door: act now."
In regards to the Captain Creek fire, QFES said a fast-moving fire was travelling in a north-easterly direction towards Captain Creek. It was expected to impact Murphy Road, Avocado Crescent and Range Road in the next hour.
"The fire is expected to have a significant impact on the community," the QFES said.
A "leave now" warning was also issued by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services for Broken River residents as conditions in the area have worsened.
Broken River is located south of Eungella and southwest of Finch Hatton, which was affected by fires earlier in the week.
At about 11.40am the QFES said a "large, unpredictable fire" was raging through the Eungella township and was heading straight for the region, with emergency crews doing all they could to keep residents safe.
The fire was travelling in a south-westerly direction from Eungella National Park towards Broken River.
"This fire is impacting Broken River. The fire could have a significant impact on the community," the QFES said.
It comes after residents of two other central Queensland towns - Campwin Beach and Sarina Beach - were evacuated early this morning and an emergency situation declared for Sarina Beach.
EMERGENCY SITUATION AT BEACHSIDE SUBURB
RESIDENTS of two more Queensland communities were this morning told to flee immediately ahead of a fast-moving blaze as the state's bushfire crisis rolls on.
Thousands of people have been evacuated from communities in central Queensland this week after catastrophic fire conditions and there were this morning reports of looting in one community.
More than 40 schools were closed this morning and authorities are still warning of concerning weather conditions today as eight "very concerning" fires continued to burn.
The most threatening blazes were still in central Queensland although southeast Queensland has been impacted by several fires. As of 8am this morning only one was still a threat - near Little Mountain.
Early today, residents of two more communities - Campwin Beach and Sarina Beach south of Mackay - were woken by police and emergency text messages telling them they were in danger and to move to safety immediately. However at 6.45am the QFES issued an updated alert for the Campwin Beach area of "stay informed".
Police have made an emergency declaration under the Public Safety and Preservation Act in relation to the bushfire burning at Sarina Beach.
The declaration was made at 1.45am and encompasses the areas of Sarina Beach and Campwin Beach, including Sarina Coast Road and Campwin Beach Road.
Police are currently evacuating people within that area.
An evacuation centre has been established in the Memorial Hall at the corner of the Bruce Highway and Anzac Street.
The Queensland Fire and Emergency Service said homes and lives were under threat, with conditions very dangerous and firefighters struggling to have any effect on the blaze.
FLEE NOW: CENTRAL QLD TOWNS STILL AT RISK
Residents of the central Queensland towns of Deepwater, Baffle Creek, Rules Beach and Oyster Creek were again urged this morning to leave now as a dangerous bushfire approaches.
The Queensland Fire and Emergency Servies said that as at 5am "an extremely large and intense fire is spreading in a southerly direction towards Coast Road. The fire could have a significant impact on the community".
Firefighters were this morning conducting backburning operations in the vicinity of Rules Beach Road.
The township of Mt Larcom has been reopened, with no homes lost.
Miraculously, the local primary school which backs onto to bush land only lost its shed.
Another property in the fire zone was affected, losing at least three cars, but there was little structural damage.
In many parts of the small town, only a narrow road saved houses as the fire raged metres away last night.
Backburning of bushland east of Mt Larcom heading towards Gladstone last night has given the area some reprieve.
The Bruce Highway, south of Mount Larcom, had this morning reopened but residents who were evacuated yesterday were this morning told not to return.
Police said powerlines were still down in the town this morning and that it was not safe for residents to return.
"There is damage to residences, to houses and sheds. We have to wait until its safe for us to go in and assess the full damage," Gladstone Police Inspector Darren Somerville said.
The fire front had passed the roadway late last night but authorities were checking a stretch of about 700m due to the risk of burnt trees falling on the road and posing a risk to motorists.
Authorities last night said a bushfire in Darlymple Heights could worsen and residents were being advised to prepare to leave.
At 9:20pm, a large fire was burning in an easterly and westerly direction towards Schumanns Rd and Chelmans Rd at Darlymple Heights.
There are currently 106 fires burning across the state but favourable conditions overnight allowed firefighters to make huge progress on one major fire at Gracemere, near Rockhampton, with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk this morning saying the town had been "saved".
She said huge efforts from firefighters overnight, including waterbombing, saved the town and said residents would soon be able to return home.
Police revoked an emergency situation for Gracemere at around 5.30am. It had been in place since about 3.50pm yesterday.
All roads to Gracemere had re-opened by 7am and police advised residents it was safe to return. About 8000 residents were evacuated yesterday.
There were unconfirmed reports this morning of looting in the Gracemere area.
WEATHER EXPECTED TO HAMPER EFFORTS
Authorities have warned that heatwave conditions are expected to hamper firefighting efforts today.
The QFES commissioner Katarina Carroll said conditions today were drier because of less humidity.
She said the conditions were "still hampering" efforts but said they weren't catastrophic as seen in previous days.
She described the weather situation as "still very concerning" but it's hoped the worst conditions had passed.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has reminded residents that heatwave conditions are forecast in some regions over the next five days and urged people to listen to messages from authorities.
SUNSHINE COAST PSPA REVOKED
In good news this morning, an emergency declaration relating to a large grass fire burning on the Sunshine Coast has been revoked.
The emergency declaration was made under the Public Safety and Preservation Act about 12.10am as a large grass fire was burning in the Little Mountain.
The declaration encompassed the boundaries of Kawana Link Road to the west, Caloundra Road to the south, Parklands Boulevard to the east and Meridan Way to the north.
The fire is no longer posing a threat to homes and the declaration was revoked at 2.48am.
OVERNIGHT: TOWN OF 8000 EVACUATED
AN intense fire was raging towards the central Queensland town of Gracemere last night as its 8000 residents fled in an unprecedented evacuation, some with just the clothes on their backs.
Several homes in the small town, just 15km outside Rockhampton, were already at serious risk of burning to the ground last night as firefighters frantically worked to battle a blaze sweeping in from the West through Stanwell.
The fire, just one of about 130 still burning across Queensland overnight, took the community and authorities by surprise as all eyes were on blazes north of Bundaberg, where Rules Beach was evacuated earlier in the day.
Late yesterday afternoon, the decision was made to evacuate Gracemere and nearby Ambrose as well, with residents given a window of mere hours to get out as schools and other services also shut their doors.
At 7pm last night, about 80 per cent of the Gracemere community had "safely and sensibly" evacuated to the Rockhampton Showgrounds.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the catastrophic bushfire posed a serious risk to homes and structures in the area.
"We've had close to 200 fires today," she said.
"The early indications are, yes we are expecting (buildings to be affected).
"There are some structures that may be on the outskirts of town already affected.
She said the fire was believed to have already torn through some structures in nearby Kabra.
"What the difficulty I have is, we can't make those damage assessment accurately until we get back in and the operations are taking place as we speak," Ms Carroll said.
The separate fire at Ambrose - a small town between Rockhampton and Gladstone - jumped the Bruce Highway, resulting in the main arterial being cut off.
Nearby Mt Larcom was also evacuated, with residents urged to seek shelter in Gladstone.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said hot conditions fuelling the fires were likely to persist through until next week.
"We expect to be in this heatwave until at least next Tuesday," she said.
"It is going to be very serious conditions … now until then."
The Bureau of Meteorology's Dianna Eadie said winds were forecast to ease off last night and there was less of a risk of further thunderstorms.
"We're also losing potential for high based thunderstorms which could ignite more fires," she said.
"There are still very high fire dangers across much of the state."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the entire country was behind the fire-struck areas of Queensland and urged residents to follow all directions from authorities to evacuate.
He said the Commonwealth disaster assistance plan had been activated, with assistance to be provided by the Australian Defence Force and financial assistance will be on the way.
Firefighting services have been sent to the state from New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria and Western Australia.
Mr Morrison urged Gracemere residents to evacuate to Rockhampton if advised by authorities to do so.
"I know that will be very distressing to them and their families but know this. The entire country is coming to your aid. The entire country is there to help in this time of great need," he said.
"The messages that I think are important to Australians today, and particularly Queenslanders, up in north Queensland, and central Queensland, is to simply take the advice. You can rebuild a home but you can't rebuild a family."
He said the ADF at Amberley had been providing support so far, as had seven aircraft from NSW.
Financial assistance has also been triggered through joint disaster recovery funds.
"They've been activated, particularly in areas of Gladstone, and that provides financial support for personal hardship and distress and assisting in a number of the counter disaster operations that have been provided by the Queensland government."
Mr Morrison said neither he or the Deputy Prime Minister had immediate plans to visit the area.
"The advice to us is that we need people to focus on the firefighting effort and the firefighting response, so we will continue to monitor and manage things from - in terms of the Commonwealth's response from Canberra, and working closely with Emergency Management Australia," he said.