Queensland police suspect a large bushfire that started in the state’s Gold Coast hinterland could have been deliberately lit, as several Queensland communities near the fires still burning are being urged to stay alert with conditions expected to deteriorate in coming days.
- All bushfires across Queensland remain at advice warning level on Sunday
- The Police Commissioner says the Sarabah fire could have been arson
- The Premier says it will take months for some communities to recover from the bushfires
Firefighters are still battling about 50 fires across the state, but have been helped by milder weather conditions overnight.
The Queensland Fire and Emergency Service (QFES) said the bushfire near Applethorpe in the Granite Belt flared up on Saturday, while new fires had sprung up inland from Bundaberg and Mount Kilcoy in the Somerset region.
But there was no immediate threat and all fires remained at the advice warning level.
There have been more than 1,200 bushfires across the state since the start of September.
A total of 17 properties have been destroyed in Queensland during the fire emergency, with many more incurring damage, including form smoke.
Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said officers were investigating arson as a possibility in the Sarabah fire in Gold Coast Hinterland, which destroyed 11 houses and five businesses.
She said police “have concerns with how the fire started” and that arson had not been ruled out.
“We will be relentless in pursuing whoever lit the fire, not only here but across the state,” she said.
“Certainly we have got a number of people we are looking at, and that investigation will continue until we have an outcome.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk spoke to locals in the fire-affected hinterland community of Beechmont on Sunday morning.
She said it would takes months for communities to recovery from the devastating impacts of the bushfires.
“These people here and this community is very resilient, but people are still going through a lot,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“The impact and the shock is going to be felt for weeks, if not months.
“We’re going to make sure we have all the support families need to get back on their feet.
The State Government said $200,000 in financial assistance had already been provided to residents impacted by bushfires.
A taskforce has also been created to support the recovery of the heritage-listed Binna Burra Lodge and to help its staff find alternative employment.
‘We need to be ready’
Ms Palaszczuk said conditions were expected to deteriorate this week.
“Conditions are going to change on Tuesday and Wednesday, and we need to be ready for that,” she said.
“The winds are going to pick up, it’s going to be dry right across half the state, and of course we’re seeing temperatures between 5 and 8 degrees [Celsius] higher for this time of year.
“The other thing is, there is no rain on the horizon.”
QFES Deputy Commissioner Michael Wassing said fire crews were well prepared to continue fighting blazes across the state and to help communities with recovery.
“We’ve got significant resources, we’ve got interstate resources, we’ve got significant aircraft to make sure those fire don’t come out of those areas and don’t threaten any further properties,” he said.
“We’re really consolidating those containment lines to make sure as the fires continue to burn in those remote areas that they don’t have a chance to get out later on.”
For more information about Queensland’s bushfire situation, listen live to ABC Local Radio in your area:
- ABC Gold Coast
- ABC Southern Queensland
- ABC Sunshine Coast
Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Sam Campbell said Sunday’s weather would be “more of the same”.
“It’s going to be too dry for any showers for virtually the whole of Queensland today, I’m afraid,” he said.
“Temperatures would hit 4C to 7C above average in southern Queensland.
“Winds would be generally pretty light through most areas.”
He said while the fire danger had dropped slightly in South-East Queensland, there was no end in sight to dry, hot weather “for much of the next seven days”.
“Really the only chance of any rainfall in the coming days is in the far south-east of the state from Tuesday and otherwise virtually everyone else in Queensland will see further dry, sunny weather I’m afraid.”
The BOM is also predicting thunderstorm activity in South-East Queensland on Tuesday, but the storms are not expected to produce much in the way of rain.