AS the Tablelands was gripped with multiple fires late last week, firefighting crews from across Far North Queensland worked tirelessly to ensure the damage to properties in vulnerable areas was kept to a minimum.
One particular fire which proved extremely difficult to contain was Thursday’s fire just north of Biboohra, with it requiring more than 60 firefighters on hand to control the blaze which started just after 10am.
The time of the day and a strong south-easterly wind contributed to what was described as a “fast moving fire”, and Incident Controller and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commander for the Western Command Shane Jarvis noted that the ignition of the blaze was accidental.
“As it relates to what exactly started the fire, we have some leads that we passed on to the QPS (Queensland Police Service), and at this stage it points to an accidental ignition,” Mr Jarvis said on Friday.
“With that in mind, we are urging residents to not light fires of any kind across the Tablelands and strongly advise them to reconsider any form of hot work they wish to undertake such as using grinders, welders and oxy-torches.
“We also urge residents to be mindful when using a tractor to slash their paddock, as something as small as striking a rock with the machine’s blades is capable of starting a fire.”
Mr Jarvis said while QFES’s predictive forecasting model pointed to the potential for increased fire activity on Thursday, he noted that the number of fires that broke out across the Tablelands was unexpected.
“We knew we were coming into a heightened period, however as the day progressed, every fire that occurred on the Tablelands all came at once which made it very difficult to stay on top of,” he said.
“That signals a very tough fire season ahead, as we are still getting temperatures in Mareeba and Kuranda as low as 3 and 4 degrees (Celsius) at night, along with highs of 28-29 degrees throughout the day.
“And as we approach the summer months, we’ll be reaching temperatures around 35 degrees, which will bring lower humidity and therefore heighten our fire danger across the community.”
Incidences of this nature have an enormous ripple effect throughout the region, and Mareeba Shire Council Mayor Tom Gilmore is urging the community to remain vigilant in what is a trying time.
“Thursday was a very sad reminder of the catastrophic effects bushfires can have on life and property,” Cr Gilmore said.
“The fire at Biboohra devastatingly destroyed a family home, properties and livelihoods in the area.
“On behalf of the community, our thoughts are with the family and all those who were involved in the events that unfolded so rapidly Thursday afternoon.
“My sincere appreciation is extended to all the emergency service personnel and volunteers who faced difficult conditions and ultimately stopped the fire in its path of destruction.”
Fire crews also battled blazes at Chillagoe, Dimbulah, Watsonville, Irvinebank and Mareeba and thankfully the impact was largely minimal.