Queensland is bracing itself for a wave of extreme bushfires in the coming days as Australia officially settles into the El Nino phase. Despite the heroic efforts of firefighters who successfully controlled innumerable bushfires on Tuesday, Greg Leach, the commissioner for Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, voiced concern for certain parts of the state, particularly as we approach Thursday.
With forecasts predicting challenging conditions throughout the week, there’s added pressure to ensure fires are contained before Thursday. Areas across the state are expected to remain on high fire alert, with certain regions in Channel Country being projected in the zone of extreme fire danger.
According to meteorological predictions, Brisbane is set to see temperatures soaring up to 35 degrees, while Townsville and Bundaberg will experience mercury levels at 30 and 32 degrees respectively. Leach reassured that unlike New South Wales, which declared a total fire ban on Tuesday, Queensland will avoid similar measures, instead opting to consistently monitor the evolving conditions. He further insisted on locals being cognizant of the weather patterns and having a bushfire plan in hand.
Firefighters have managed to control several outbreaks across the state, notably south of Townsville, Bundaberg, and the Darling Downs region. Leach singled out the Beerwah fire along the Sunshine Coast for observing a temporary reprieve in the weather conditions, giving fire-fighters an upper hand in building a mineral earth-break around the fiery outbreak. Areas that remain unburnt within the containment line will continue to be tested to ascertain the feasibility of further burnouts.
The state’s rural fire brigade numbers were put under scrutiny for potentially being insufficient to handle a harsh fire season. Post an audit, Leach confirmed having a team of 26,500 firefighter volunteers, faring less from the strength of 35,000 five years prior. The discrepancies were attributed to on-ground realities like inactive involvement, relocations, and demise of members among others.
Mark Ryan, Minister for Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, reassured Queenslanders of having an adequate arsenal of resources to protect them through the summer season. He commended not only the rural fire service but also the volunteers and the paid staff who facilitate and carry out responses during times of emergencies.
The bushfire warning comes amidst other regions in Australia’s southeast managing high temperatures, with severe heatwave warnings issued in New South Wales from Monday to Wednesday. Major parts of the country experienced a major upswing in temperature, with readings in the mid 30s during the initial part of the week. Over 20 public schools in New South Wales were necessitated to close due to extreme fire danger along the South Coast. Warmer and drier conditions are anticipated across regions of Australia, aligning with the declaration of El Nino on Tuesday.