Philip Pawsey was camping on Fraser Island when he was advised by Queensland Police to leave the area due to an approaching fire on Friday night (9th November 2020) Picture facebook/Philip Pawsey
Philip Pawsey was camping on Fraser Island when he was advised by Queensland Police to leave the area due to an approaching fire on Friday night (9th November 2020) Picture facebook/Philip Pawsey

Bushfire believed to have burned 30% of island’s scrub

A WILDFIRE, burning for more than a month and likely started by an illegal campfire, is now believed to have moved across about 30 per cent of Fraser Island.

The news comes as longtime island conservationist Mike West says the unique World Heritage Area has been compromised by the blaze.

He insists that while it's true that so far there's been little to no damage to property or infrastructure, the environmental damage is "horrific".

"It was only last year another massive area was burnt by a fire that ran unchecked for weeks in the south of the island," he said.

"K'gari is the stronghold of the unusual ground parrots and black-breasted button-quails, which will have very few places left on the island for habitat unless the fire is extinguished quickly.

"Many years ago, a lot of time and effort by the Advisory Committee to Fraser Island World Heritage Area went into formulating a fire policy.

"This committee has not been reinstated for many months, but work is needed to address the obvious fire problems that have obviously worsened.

"We now have a different ball game.

"K'gari is now catching up with the rest of Australia's east coast areas that suffered from fires in recent times.

"There needs to be an urgent plan put in place to put this huge fire out as it approaches the vital rainforest areas in the centre of the island.

The fire burning on Fraser Island.
The fire burning on Fraser Island.

"It is believed this present fire began as a result of an illegal campfire. It was a past Advisory Committee which recommended a ban on campfires and they copped a lot of criticism for introducing that policy. We can see now that those rules, if abided by, would reduce the instance of wildfires."

A spokeswoman from the Department of Environment and Science said the fire had been burning in remote and largely inaccessible areas of K'gari (Fraser Island), including a number of swamps.

"The ability to contain its movement has been limited," she said.

"Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has undertaken measures including backburning and waterbombing operations to protect the township of Orchid Beach and other destinations such as Dundaburra and Cathedral Beach.

"Fire is a natural part of the island's landscape and plays an important role in the ecosystem and the longer-term health of many species.

"For the most part, the fire has been burning at acceptable intensities and creating a mosaic of burnt and unburnt country, being influenced by periods of cooler nights and intermittent showers.

"This fire has moved across about 30 per cent of the island.

"The area affected by fire has not been burnt uniformly.

"Under the stronger northerly influence and warmer temperatures of the past couple of days, the fire has intensified making direct attack and even suppression impractical."

QPWS, with the support of QFES, was currently focused on preparing resources and fire lines in preparation for a favourable weather change to the south east, expected this week, to give suppression and containment options the best chance of success, the spokeswoman said.

"Island and adjacent mainland communities to the west and north of the island will continue to experience smoke during this time," she said.

"Open fires are prohibited on the island and limited to a number of designated firepits within the Dundaburra and Waddy Point campgrounds.

"This restriction on open campfires throughout national park campgrounds and beach camping areas has existed on K'gari for more than a decade and has limited the number of wildfires on the island.

"This fire started through a poorly extinguished illegal campfire.

"Those responsible have not been identified."