AN EARLY morning wind change was set to worsen the bushfire crisis in the Gold Coast hinterland and Granite Belt overnight.
Three more parts of the Gold Coast hinterland — Springbrook, Witheren and Numinbah Valley — were hit with “prepare to leave” warnings just after midnight.
Those communities were expected to be in the path of fires currently affecting Binna Burra and Beechmont, as a change moves through, bringing stronger winds which were expected to fan flames northward.
As of 1am the following warnings had been issued:
Leave now: Binna Burra, Applethorpe, The Summit, Thulimbah, Cottonvale, Dalveen
Prepare to leave: Sarabah, Springbrook, Witheren, Numinbah Valley
Seek shelter: Stanthorpe
Stay informed: Hawkwood
Spot fires were already being reported spreading from the inferno.
The same situation was beginning to be seen in Stanthorpe, where a wind change was expected to put Applethorpe residents under greater threat.
As of last night, at least one home was lost, residents were being rescued by helicopter and towns across the state’s southeast were being evacuated as bushfires raged.
In Stanthorpe, police declared an emergency at 10pm, with power to the town cut and the New England Highway closed. Residents at nearby Applethorpe were told to leave immediately soon after.
In the Gold Coast hinterland, a family was flown to safety as blazes tore through Sarabah, Binna Burra, Pacific Pines, Beechmont, Numinbah Valley and Clagiraba.
Residents of Sarabah were told to “leave immediately” about 4.15pm as the fire was labelled “very dangerous” and expected to continue burning throughout the night.
The warning was downgraded at 10.10pm but residents were warned to remain prepared to leave.
Locals had fled to the Canungra Showgrounds with their pets and farm animals as fire bore down on the area.
One family on Tabletop Rd, including two men and a woman and their dog, were rescued by helicopter after becoming stranded in the path of the flames.
Their home was destroyed by the fire.
In shock, the family only had praise for their rescuers.
“They rescued us,” the woman said, pointing to firefighters. “They were amazing.”
A number of sheds in the area had also burnt to the ground. Residents of Binna Burra were being urged to seek shelter, with conditions too dangerous to leave at 9pm.
Scenic Rim Mayor Greg Christensen, himself a volunteer firefighter, confirmed the Sarabah home was destroyed.
“The first house that has been lost in the event on the southside of Canungra occurred this afternoon at Tabletop Rd,” he said.
“The residents and their pet were rescued safely.
“I think some in the community are quite emotional, some are scared.
“I am normally out there spruiking that I want everyone to come and visit us.
“Today I am saying please stay away from us around the Canungra corridor, give us a day or two and we’ll be proud to welcome you back.”
Canungra resident Melainie Stevenson was one of the lucky ones. As she was preparing to leave with dogs Milky and Mutley, firefighters managed to save her saved her house on Lamington National Park Rd.
State Emergency Services volunteers said residents were well prepared for the blaze and many were yesterday working hard to secure their properties.
Kilcoy SES group leader Penny Butler said many locals had working emergency plans and stores of food and personal items ready to go.
“It is really good to see how ready people are,” Ms Butler said.
“Most people have been concerned about moving their pets, and already have their caravans and cars packed.”
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said disaster management arrangements for the city had been moved to “alert status” yesterday.
He told residents to stay alert and follow instructions from the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service.
“They have been doing a wonderful job. Be careful if you’re a smoker or if you are going out and cutting lawns. A small spark can set off a fire,” he said.
There is little relief in sight, with Bureau of Meteorology forecaster Harry Clark predicting just a “slight” reduction in the fire danger over the weekend.
A wind change cooled conditions overnight, with the temperatures on the Gold Coast dropping by up to 6C in parts of the city, but the dry, windy weather is expected to remain until at least early next week, Mr Clark said.
“We’re not expecting any rainfall in the next seven days at least over Queensland,” he said.
“We will see the warm temperatures abate, however we will still see the dry and really gusty conditions.
“The fire dangers will drop back to very high across most districts but it will still going to be hard to control these fires, while conditions will ease slightly, we’re not expecting a full reprieve.”
The recent hot, dry conditions have created large fuel loads of dry vegetation in the hinterland, offering plenty of ammunition for large fires.
Mr Clark said it was unusual to see raging bushfires so early in spring.
“This whole event is quite unusual for this early in the year, usually we start to see significant fire dangers in the latter part of September and into spring,” he said.