28 Nov 2018

'People will burn to death': Australians urged to flee firestorm threat

5:25 pm on 28 November 2018

Firefighters battling "horrendous" blazes in central Queensland are bracing for potential firestorm conditions, as authorities warn fires are expected to break containment lines.

Emergency warnings in place for Deepwater, Rules Beach, Baffle Creek and Oyster Creek.

No caption

Queensland Fire Service said its firefighters were facing conditions never seen before. Photo: RNZ / QFES

State Disaster Co-ordinator Bob Gee has reiterated that it's time to act now.

"Already police and members of the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service are putting themselves at risk trying to help you, you are playing Russian roulette," he said.

"If you have children with you, you need to think really hard about not losing a house but losing the people you care most about," he said.

"It's not normal for Queensland. People will burn to death. Their normal approaches most probably won't work if this situation develops the way it's predicted to develop.

"It's no different from a category five cyclone coming straight through your door."

Earlier Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk issued an urgent plea to a small group of residents in Rules Beach to evacuate immediately.

However, several of the evacuation roads have now been impacted by the fire.

"Firefighters may not be able to hold the containment lines," she said.

Premier said people in 50 homes were refusing to leave and warned the beach was not going to be safe.

A fire at nearby Round Hill is burning within containment lines but a watch and act alert remains in place.

"This is not an ordinary fire … this is a dangerous fire that could result in a firestorm," Ms Palaszczuk said yesterday.

The "firestorm" conditions expected today occur when strong winds blow burning material beyond containment lines.

Andrew Sturgess from the Queensland Fire Service said it was alarming what crews were up against.

"We're not talking about a very hot day or a very bad fire, today we're talking about records, so these are conditions that we've never seen before. We'll see fire behaviour that we've never seen before," he said.

Some crews returning to base at Round Hill this morning hadn't slept in a day after fighting the Deepwater bushfire for 12 hours straight.

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Gabriel Branescu said a "dry storm" forecast for central Queensland could make fires even more unpredictable.

"Basically, in some places we see not much rainfall, just a dry lightning from those storms, they are very elevated, they move pretty quick and they can drop quite a bit of gust," he said.

A community meeting was held last night to update residents at Agnes Water.

Local man Marcus Webber said he feared the worst after being forced to evacuate his home.

"My property is burnt out, the footage I got from a firefighter shows all of the fire 3 to 4m away from my house. Everything just black, wind, smoke everywhere," Mr Webber said.

"But my house [was] still standing there, so I fell down and almost cried - the joy was overwhelming."

Red Cross volunteers have arrived at evacuation centres in the area to help those who have fled their homes

Inspector Darren Sommerville from the Gladstone Disaster Management Group said residents in the Deepwater area who were refusing to leave are underestimating the scale of today's fire danger.