Two Queensland border towns remain in the crosshairs of an out-of-control fire, with fears more homes might be lost before the blaze is brought under control.
Tense locals crowded into Stanthorpe’s civic centre, where they were told to brace for possibly two more difficult nights.
QFES assistant commissioner Megan Stiffler warned they would not have the fire under control before Monday.
“We have days ahead of us and lots of hard work through the night to secure all edges of this fire,” she said.
Hundreds of people were forced to evacuate their homes on Friday, with the flames claiming seven structures including three homes in the Stanthorpe and Applethorpe areas.
The main area of concern on Saturday night was Applethorpe, where people who had returned home from evacuation centres in the morning were told to evacuate again this afternoon.
Stanthorpe residents have been ordered to remain ready to flee if the situation escalates.
Stanthorpe woman Trish Cuthbert says people are extremely tense and fear another horrendous night ahead.
“At this stage it is still burning uncontrollably and it is a very aggressive situation,” Ms Cuthbert told AAP.
“They did say that tonight is going to be touch and go again, like it was last night.”
She spent time on Saturday with an elderly couple whose home was among the three lost.
“They have lost everything. They were both in tears and I was tearing up talking to them. You could just see the devastation in their eyes,” she said.
“They said they had a lifetime of memories in their house and they’re all gone.”
Ms Cuthbert, who runs the Stanthorpe Facebook community page, said the Friday night was pretty horrendous.
“I couldn’t breathe, my eyes were watering and itchy. There were embers and just really, really thick smoke.”
Stanthorpe residents Brad and Coral Krahe escaped with two dogs, Tuppence and Muffin, and four cats, spending the night in their car after their home was destroyed.
“I still didn’t believe them until I actually went up and we saw the place and then my heart just sunk,” Mr Krahe said told AAP.
The couple said they were devastated to lose photos of their parents and grandchildren.
“You name it, we lost it,” Ms Krahe said.
The Southern Downs region is among the southern regions in the grip of a serious drought, and the town’s water supply is at dangerously low levels.
The council is currently building tanks for water that will be trucked in to supply the town.
Applethorpe residents have been told fire is expected to impact properties south of Matthews Lane and Arico Lane in the early evening.
They’ve been told to flee along the New England Highway, towards Warwick but have also been warned the highway could be closed at short notice.
An evacuation centre is open at the YMCA Leslie Dam Active Recreation Centre.
More than 300 people spent Friday night in evacuation centres in Stanthorpe and Warwick.