Little reprieve as more than 80 fires scorch state
MORE than 80 fires burned across the state yesterday and entire towns were being evacuated last night as extreme weather had firefighters scrambling to contain potentially devastating bushfires.
Immediate evacuation orders were in place for Woodgate in the Bundaberg region, Noosa North Shore on the Sunshine Coast, Pechey near Toowoomba and Kilkivan outside Gympie.
In total, 83 fires were yesterday burning across the state - the highest tally since last November when bushfires raged throughout central Queensland.
Miraculously, the only serious incident involved a helicopter pilot whose waterbombing craft crashed while helping to douse flames in Pechey.
He walked away from the crash, despite dramatic photos of the aftermath showing the chopper on its side with significant damage.
Noosa North Shore was one of the worst areas impacted yesterday, with the blaze igniting about 8.30am and forcing the evacuation of about 180 people.
Noosa Mayor Tony Wellington said the fire was within containment lines, however the shifting wind posed as a significant problem.
He said the community was still reeling from bushfires in recent months, with the most recent evacuation warnings for 8000 people being issued on Friday.
"It's very emotionally taxing for residents to be evacuated once but let alone twice," Cr Wellington said.
"Fortunately it's a very resilient community and we have all chipped in and helped one another."
Detectives were at the scene of the Noosa fires to determine the cause of the inferno, with Queensland Police Service Inspector Jon Lewis revealing they were strongly investigating the possibility of arson.
"Based on the fact that there have been three separate fires in the last 24 hours, and at this stage we're unaware of any other possible ignition source, we're absolutely looking at it possibly being deliberately lit," he said.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk hit out at arsonists causing havoc yesterday.
"You need to do the right thing by yourself and your community. Because it is the community that suffers by your reckless behaviour," she said.
To the north, residents of Buxton and Woodgate in central Queensland were forced to flee their homes as a large bushfire headed for the town last night.
Fire crews and waterbombing aircraft rushed to contain the blazes with thick black smoke filling the air.
Firefighters warned the conditions meant they may be unable to prevent the fire from advancing, with the fire "posing a threat to all lives in its path".
The Bureau of Meteorology last night warned there was no significant rainfall on the horizon, meaning most of the land affected would remain bone dry and burnt.
There may be some temporary reprieve for firefighters today however, as temperatures in parts of the state were predicted to last night drop by up to 10C.
The widespread fire emergency in both Queensland and large parts of NSW once again saw air quality levels plummet to "very poor" as thick smoke filled the air across the south-east.
Among the worst air quality levels in the state were Cannon Hill and Flinders View in the south-east, Hopeland and Upper Humbug in the south-west and The Gap at Mt Isa, which was rated the lowest in the state.
The poor air conditions are expected to linger throughout the week and into the weekend as blazes continue to burn in coming days.