House lost, 60 homes evacuated in ferocious fire
QUEENSLAND'S horror fire season has claimed another home after fast-moving flames forced the evacuation of 60 homes in a Lockyer Valley town in the most ferocious blaze locals say they have ever experienced.
Residents of Laidley fled their homes while others were forced to stay and seek shelter after a large and unpredictable fire threatened the town, 90km west of Brisbane, yesterday.
One house burnt down and more than 30 fire crews battled to save several others.
About 10.40pm Tuesday, fire crews managed to contain the bushfire.
Earlier in the day, water bombing aircraft fought fires with ground crews as police declared an emergency situation under the Public Safety Preservation Act just before 3pm.
An evacuation centre was set up at Laidley Cultural Centre for displaced residents to shelter in last night. Kim King was at work as the fire bore down on her town.
"It was horrendous because all you could see was smoke and you couldn't see if the houses were alight," she said. "So it was a matter of not knowing we had to wait until it cleared a little bit."
The fire was directly aimed at a good friend's house.
"You could not see here at all. It was just black smoke," she told The Courier-Mail.
"Then we saw a fence go up. But we couldn't see the other side of the house ... so we didn't know we just expected the worst."
When Ms King was able to get back into town she saw firefighters had managed to save her friend's home. She spent the afternoon watering down the property.
Forest Hill Auxiliary Fire Brigade Captain Rob Marsh got the call just before 2pm. "It's the worst I've seen," he said. "She was pretty intense. Trying to get in between a fast fire and a house is just really hard."
The fire broke out in a large paddock containing 1.2m high grass.
Grandchester Rural Fire Service first officer Donna Jackwitz said it was a "hot windy grass fire".
"It was beating us, it was moving very fast," she said.
Laidley woman Joan Body said the fast-moving inferno took everyone by surprise.
"I've lived here all my life, this is one of the worst fires I've ever seen," she said.
"We don't know really until we find our family and friends, if they're alright."
People holed up at the Laidley evacuation centre last night said they were holding out hope for their properties.
"I know a lot of people around town and they've been saying how scary it is, no one seems to think there's been one like this," Ms Body said. "I had a few things ready but I just drove my husband and I to the centre as soon as police knocked on our door to evacuate."
QFES acting Deputy Commissioner John Bolger said there had been "hectic, busy and erratic fire behaviour" at Laidley.
"We've managed to pull it up to a certain degree as it heads towards Grandchester but we're certainly not out of the woods," he told The Courier-Mail on Tuesday night.
"We're not exactly sure how this Laidley fire started yet but it sort of came in right at that change of wind and change of weather. It did take off on us, that's for sure."
Mr Bolger said multiple structures were under threat on Tuesday night.
"I'm not sure if we will be able to hold it at one (destroyed house)," he said.
"We have multiple crews there ... doing their best to try to pull that fire up."
Thirty fires were last night raging across Queensland including two rated in the catastrophic level at Laidley and Mount Sylvia.
The Laidley fire followed a bushfire at Thornton, about 25km south of Laidley, where residents were told to evacuate on Tuesday afternoon.
There was also a bushfire at The Ridge, north of Dalby, on Tuesday afternoon and a grassfire at St Helens, west of Toowoomba.
In a separate incident, two houses in East Toowoomba burnt down. It's unclear how that fire began.
Mr Bolger urged people to check their bushfire survival plan and to evacuate early if given a warning.
"We're expecting these fire conditions to go well into the night, we may get a reprieve over night," Mr Bolger said.
"(Today) we are still in another high to very high, perhaps severe, fire danger day.
"We're not expecting a break in the weather until around Thursday."